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Friday, December 10, 2010

Pieces of other People

I carry pieces of other people around. I have treasured you in my heart, or saved a note or card or trinket or I have written words from your mouth on scraps of paper-receipts, church programs, business cards. These might be some of those words:

Warriors Know

What is Peace between God and Man?

The time is at hand--
through the blizzard of troubles
we wrap our injured flesh around You.

Warriors know zeal is not circumstantial.
What keeps you captive?
A multitude of unknowns?

The answer lies in what you are wanting. In the starving.

Provide the sacrifice-whole. Shalom.
Overwhelm the temple of today.

Monday, November 29, 2010


I stood at my stove eating sea salted potato chips, the fat kind, and tearing pieces of cold chicken from the bone, one chip at a time in my left hand and one tear of chicken breast with my left hand. I kept eating, just kept eating; thinking "I should stop eating these chips, the salt's not good for me, it makes me blow fish puffy". But I kept eating; crunching loudly, my ears hurt. Within this me swirl, I recognized the sadness wasn't going away. I stopped eating.

There's lots going on within me, around me, and food is my hiding place (except for lima beans, they look like little fetuses). I keep thinking it will all get better--soon. It doesn't get better and I'm not going to be beamed up to the star ship Enterprise (my view of biblical rapture) in the near future. Life doesn't get better when it hurts. Food comes as close to a magic wand and no magic wand poofs the bad out of existence. Ans so I fight the desire to eat and eat and eat some more.

Monday, November 1, 2010


     Adam, a friend of mine, stood above the table looking intently at a script of mine that I've heavily revised in pencil. Meaning, he was attempting to decipher mucho handwritten gobbledygook while  I looked on hopefully. We hadn't looked at the script since the last time we shot at my Grandma's where Adam's car was vandalized and burglarized.
     Right before he picked up the pieces of paper, as he tried to convince me to add a few shots here and there for continuity sake, he took a deep breath and said, "Just trying to re-engage."
     The word struck me. My life has been full of re-engaging lately.
     Traumatic events have forced me to re-engage with my extended family even when I want to run. Like Jonah, anywhere but Ninevah, Lord,  especially when your revered Grandma is the Queen.
     Chris and I are re-examining our hearts about our adventure on the bus, with home schooling and our current job situations. I have re-written our budget, re-taken my head shots and re-vamped my resume. I am re-reading the Bible with my children and re-learning basic Spanish.
     I am working with a group of teens every Monday night, re-learning to be a facilitator and not a dictator.
     But the thing I most want to re-do is ignite. To not just get a glimpse of the vision, but to be consumed by it. I like being consumed. My major deadly sin is gluttony. If God doesn't consume me, something or someone will. I must remain ever watchful, because when I am consumed without God involved, I am careless and messy and fruitless.
    I don't want to go there again.
    To consume means to use up while consummation means to be complete. I am being used up and completed at the same time. There is no divine countdown for some sublime vision, I know. I see a piece of the vision every day. 
    This is what Jesus looks like in me today. I wonder what he will look like in me tomorrow?  Okay, so I didn't do such a hot job living out Jesus today. God's mercies are new everyday. We'll start again tomorrow. 
     Right now,  the vision comes mostly as a still small voice. 
     Don't give up. Be diligent. Don't give up. Be diligent. Don't give up.
     This means so many things on a zillion different levels, but it's enough of a vision to keep me going even though I don't feel the consuming fire to do so. Good thing I'm stubborn. 
     Leave it to God to use my flaws to get me where he wants me. Re-engaged and kindled.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Selective Hearing Delay Disorder (SHDD)

shigeko had been asking me to change the door knobs of the master bedroom and bathroom for sometime. my selective hearing delay disorder (SHDD) kept me from fulfilling the request until, somehow, a crack in my thick skull got wide enough for me to finally respond. I went to the local hardware store, bought the knobs, returned home and replaced the defective knobs with the new ones.

done deal, right? not quite. you see, the first knob went in just fine, but the second knob, due to the poor craftsmanship of the cookie-cutter housing fellahs who installed the original knobs, didn't. long story short: i had to chisel a hole in the door jamb so that the bolt of the new knob would line up with it. needless to say, the work looked like sh#@*! when shigeko got home, here's how the dialogue went:

"So what do you think?"
"What's that?"
"That? Oh, that's what the cookie-cutter guys did..."
"I don't think so. That hole looks new...and ugly."
"What's so ugly about it?"
"Do i need to describe the obvious?"

And from here it was all down hill.

"Well, why don't you do it next time?"
"Next time i'll hire a professional."

needless to say, with that last sentence from my wife, all the blood rushed out of my brain and into my face—my proud, sullen, arrogant, "that's not fair" face.

"Ok, then why don't you hire a professional to fix the gate in the backyard!"

you see, i was also asked to fix the dilapidated gate in the backyard some time ago, but due to SHDD i had just started on that project as well. well, just as the words were released from my mouth, i had a slight conviction that i was going down the broad slippery road to destruction. no more words were exchanged between the two of us. i just stood there on the apex between the flames of heaven and the flames of hell. fortunately for me, by the sheer grace of God, i chose the flames of heaven—i prefer being saved as by holy fire instead of the outer flaming darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

i knew what i had to do. since I had the materials and tools to begin work on the gate, i would do that and would purchase the stuff to patch up the terrible knob job at another time. so, i went into the garage to get the necessary tools to fix the gate. after plowing through a mountain of junk (since moving from our swiss avenue office, my garage has become the storage unit for all the stuff from the office), i found what i was looking for and pressed the garage door button to close it. the next instant i unexpectedly heard a loud "boom!" for some reason, the garage door became a living demon of twisted arms (i.e., the rails), disheveled scales (i.e., the lopsided, sections of the door itself), uncoiled sinews (i.e., the lift cables) and hideous decayed teeth (i.e., the rollers) both hanging and falling from their greasy sockets. i stood before the beast unable to move. how could the Lord allow this monstrous failure to assault my life on the heels of the door knob fiasco? For an instant i felt like unsheathing my sword (i.e., grabbing a sledge hammer) and commence in the utter destruction of the fell beast with all my pent up rage. but something stayed my arm. was it fear? no, i was fearless in my wrath. whatever it was it began to spread throughout my person and i soon found myself laughing at myself. it was a joke and the joke was on, the joke was me. just as with the knob, my fault found its source in viewing the source of my worth in the work of my own hands and how that work was perceived by myself and others. the Lord, God love him, was unwilling to nurse my madness by allowing me to go from one state of insanity to another without making me see my folly. rather than pouring ice on my heat, he poured gasoline on it in the form of a garage door monster run amuck. yes, i chose the flames of heaven the first time, but was it truly my choice or one simply out of habit? the second test revealed that it was the latter.

"ok, Lord, i see my fault. forgive me for my foolishness. forgive me for measuring my worth by the work of my hands. now let the work of my hands, come failure or success, find their worth in the work of yours. i'm not sure how or if i can fix this fell beast, but i will try one step at a time." and so i tackled the beast, and within an hour or so, miracle of miracles, i pushed the garage door opener and up rose the door without a hitch. later on i told the story to shigeko (actually, it was more of a confession) and she laughed with me at the Lord's humorous way of humbling and uplifting me at the same time.

pray that the Lord would continue to knock the SHDD out of me and replace it with his humility and grace.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Today I Read Something

Today I read something I’d like to share. John 13:14, if then, your LORD and Teacher have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. (NET Bible)

Share because I’m perplexed at what I’m experiencing within our church culture. I use our because I too am included. Also, when Nehemiah prayed to God for Israel, his people, in their effort to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, he didn’t pray, those Israelites have sinned against you; no, he said, I am confessing the sins of the Israelites that we have committed against you. I digress; please forgive.

We are colorful church-going folk. All the colors precious in God’s sight and contemptible within our own insidiously separate within our we’re going to do church our way buildings on Sundays and other days of meeting. I do not know if that makes us Christians—followers of Jesus. If we are, we should be shamed by our evident disrespect and contempt for each other, our employers, and those we call pastors. Church hopping when we get our feelings hurt or don’t like what we hear shows contempt. Disrespect of our employer, as we demand time off for church, get paid what we’re worth, and don’t do the work—shame.

Jesus did things that were truly menial and commonplace. Jesus got down on his knees, took a basin of water, and washed dusty dirty feet and wiped them with a towel. Can any of us use a towel like Jesus? Towels and dishes and all the menial life tasks reveal what each of us are made of—with shameful quickness.

It would seem with the entire God talk happening as we lounge on the job and gossip in church, we’d understand that our ministry opportunities are not selected by us. They are selected and engineered by FatherSonHolySpirit God. Oswald Chambers’ comment slices; the characteristics we manifest in our immediate surroundings are indications of what we will be like in other surroundings. If any of us believe we will perform as required when we get to our mission field while behaving spagglley (sloth, pride, anger, greed, gluttony, lust, lying, envy) within our workplaces or churches, we are sorely mistaken.

We display rebellion, disobedience, gossip, and disrespect; and, enjoy our racist gospel. I am amazed at our belief we actually expect our pastors to cow tow to our whims and desires. Our church culture is in general disarray and unkempt. We are sloppy in our responsibilities and this must change because of who we are (or say we are)—followers of Jesus.

We’re held to a higher standard, not subject to philosophical or theological debate.
If we do not do the running steadily in the little ways, we shall do nothing in the crisis. Go Oswald!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Nothing Works

Nothing works for me when I’m rundowneyesburningkneeshurt tired—nothing. Not cookin’, juicin’, readin’ my gottamakeyoufeelgood devotion—nothin’. And I hurt on the inside with words I can’t find within my vocabulary lost in the winds of my mind; stuck and can’t come out. So I just sit in my blue chair and watch Babylon 5 on my computer and get lost in an unreality confused about its own god and think about prayer and fasting and reading my bible and not being able to answer the question about how I’m doin’ and what’s goin’ on with me and all that other mess. But to survive I’ve got to go through my room of jello and hope it doesn’t gel and I get stuck in the pain position—no movement, just stopped still.
But I’ve put these words on paper; incomplete as they are…

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


i was listening to someone speak and i heard the phrase
"i believe god's told me..."
i've heard that phrase before
sometimes i've used it
little "g"
letting God know we've used His NAME in vain
the christian way
little "c"
letting Jesus know we like He's following us!
dear God!

so, as i was listening
i stopped listening
let my mind absorb words thrown at it
(with great speed)
stopped thinking
became still
except for the music softly wafting through
the feces cloud sprayed within my car
(did i write that?)

my mind concluded
no, we do not trust God
do not hear the voice of God
through our voice screams
god-naming what we want Him to do within our lives
not listening because we can't hear
through life-noise of striving for gourmet food, desired shelter, styled clothing
not what He wants for us
not what YOU want for us, for me

Dear God
you do not say a lot of what we say you've said
"god said _________________" fill in the blank
i have heard, i think, the voice of God
and i'm alone
in silence
my journey and no one else

more to come

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I am NOT My Own

Dear God;
after much ado about nothing
i sat in my chair of meditation and
meditated on this
nothing that happens outside of me, myself, and my
is of any concern to me
because you've got my back
(i'm still not sure what that looks like, but i believe it)

i'm a genuine ET
and i'm phoning home
do i trust you to answer when i don't hear your voice?

i ramble as i muse across my keypad
thoughts cascading
torrential downpour of letters lost between keys

i'm not my own and that means that i don't want to be seen
i want Father Son Holy Spirit God to manifest within & through me
and when i get in the way that cannot happen
lately i've been in the way
and music brings me back to you

and i remember i trust you
dear God i trust only you
and believe you've got me through the falling letters
rambling from my fingers

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"I Don't Know"

a phrase that says so little and
screams so much
i don't know what i'm doing
most of the time
don't feel "together"
words falling from my mind
miss my glass-quilled pen
and crash upon the floor
i watch them blur through my tears
dear God
i don't know much
and i'm glad you know a whole lot more

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I'm supposed to know how to feel through my pain
I'm supposed to know how to do so much
because I'm older
but life doesn't recognize age
when pain's administered
calculatedly desired to take my breath away
and dear God
you're invisible through it all
help me to remember that there's more to my life
than the flesh I'm wearing.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010


     After dinner with friends, I stood in the bathroom at the Asian Buffet and stared at this picture on the wall and giggled. For some reason, I thought about my tenth grade English teacher who asked me if I had  read the book after every report I turned in and the senior English teacher who knew EXACTLY what every poem meant--how boring, to know everything.
     I thought what a silly girl I was to be standing in the bathroom at a buffet laughing at butterfly wings and Don wanting to fight such soft things. I thought about how I always want to slip a butterfly wing in my mouth but don't because it'll ruin 'em and to lick a dead butterfly wing seems akin to necrophilia-pestophilia if I may, but I love pesto...insectophilia...yeah.
     So, I just imagine their wings feel like the skinniest part of the hibiscus petal on my tongue-cool and membraneous, and maybe the taste is papaya-ish if those are words, and even if they aren't. And then I think of all that color, like fireworks in my mouth, and wonder if fireworks have a taste other than gunpowder, and which one would taste the best. 
     I want to open my mouth and have a thousand butterflies rush out--an insect/firework geyser. I want to film it and see what it means.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


ordination |ˌôrdnˈā sh ən| - a ceremony in which someone is ordained
ordain |ôrˈdān| - appoint, anoint, consecrate, install, invest, induct

Today, today, today, i am speechless before God
know nothing and rely on Him for every thing

Friday, June 11, 2010

Leftover Snow

When our friend Martin was in pre-production for a film, everytime we went to his house for “spiritual guidance”, I’d see a new gadget or gizmo he designed and built so he could get certain shots. I was (and still am)  also in pre-production for a film and it kinda makes me nervous.
I do not have any gizmos or gadgets or fancy camera apparatuses, but I do have lots of time spent daydreaming, some fragments of a story pieced together in Celtx, and a friend who was hankering to do something “artsy, fartsy.” (Not to mention a husband, daughter, some cute cousins and friends who agreed to take part in this insanity.)
I also have some ideas of hanging upside down from a tree and a funeral pyre with imploding trinkets. Some ideas about a paddle-boat and saran wrapping a very expensive camera that doesn’t belong to me. I am not afraid to ask and I am not afraid to take no for an answer. I am not afraid to keep going until I get something close to want I want or learn to want something new.
I know wanting and have learned to make it my friend. Not like the wanting in Psalm 23, more like the desires in Psalm 37. When I am making something it is the ultimate kind of wanting and I like it and I can’t keep God out of it. He’s taught me to do my best with the least amount of materials provided.
With everyday living, the least amount of options the more inventive I am forced to be. The two skinny days before a pay-day, I can come up with a new spin on a quesadilla that peaks my kids interest. I can forage in the freezer to find clean (but toxic, I’m sure) leftover snow mixed with a cup of strawberry ice cream I bought at the 99 cent store and a bit of milk. So on a hot day, while we’re schooling outside we feast on cold slushes and fancy quesadillas and make it a kinda fat day instead.
So I remind myself, when I am feeling inadequate in the film department, that this can carry over. We have filmed a few scenes so far and so far I love them. The sparkly bird Zoe brought me in the middle of the shower scene-- I couldn’t write that more perfectly.
The pink, dime-store necklace I found in the parking lot at church that I stuck  around my neck for three days somehow made it into the film,--prominently. I re-wrote three scenes to incorporate it.  When I spotted a boxing ring in the middle of a field, 100 yards from a small white clap-board church, it got a scene, even though I haven’t asked permission and decide to guerrilla film-shhhh.
So when I see the fancy, stuff in Martin’s garage or go to festivals and see films that make me drool with admiration, I just remind myself most of the artists I know were wishing they had more money, time, equipment and talent, too.
What I got is what I got and I love it:
Hanging out with people I know and even love and telling them what I think hearing what they think and seeing how it fits together to make something more, better, real-er, truer . . .
Watching it grow, from snow, to ice cream, to a slushy dream just because it was lean times and we wanted more. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

God Likes It When I'm Humble

       I’ve used this quote from a poet, Cheyenne Gallion, quite a bit lately due to a series of unfortunate events, all of which I will not divulge here.
       We spent most of January scrambling to get our Honda fixed (hit and run in November) so we could get it inspected before the end of the month. Chris and Craig replaced a fender and light casing and also discovered our frame was bent. They used a wench to pull back into place and Voila’ inspect able car.
We felt blessed.
       Two days later, Chris borrowed his mom’s car, so I could use ours, and he received a ticket for no inspection on HER CAR. She had been so busy helping her mom care for her step-dad during an illness, she’d forgotten.
       A week later a hose disintegrated on our car so Chris pulled over to a gas station. He left the car, and rode his bus to the job, waited for me to come get him. We had a beer and hot dog in the parking lot and commenced to fixing the little booger.  Twenty bucks for a hose didn’t seem bad, but then we were able to help a nice stranded woman out, and she ended up giving us our twenty dollars back.
      We tried to refuse, but she insisted. Her husband had recently died and since then, she said  “It has been one thing after another. Please let me bless you.”  I like the supernatural-ness of mutual blessings.
      Later that night, after a party with friends, we headed to the store for some school supplies,--me in Chris’ mom’s car, Chris following in ours-- when I saw him get creamed by a huge truck, that never even slowed down, just kept driving like our Honda was a mayfly or something. 
      Chris, aka Crash Knievel, was fine. This made his fifteenth wreck, eleventh one that was NOT his fault, and third hit and run.
       We were upbeat that night, even though we felt weird.
      "What is God teaching us?" we asked aloud. “Are we missing something?”
       It has been our experience that just when we are on the precipice of major movement  in our lives we’ve been thwarted by distractions, some of our own making and some not.
       Many people look at these situations and say, “How unfortunate. How unlucky.” We used to say that, but not so much anymore.
       We’ve seen what the work of our hands can do--some impressive, fruitful stuff; some selfish, painful sin.  Either way, we’re trying hard-core to let our work be His doing.  Not everyone understands this, especially my dad.
       He wasn’t the happiest man, when we sold all our belongings and cashed out our savings to pay off what little bit of debt we had, quit our safe jobs and move HIS grandchildren into a school bus. How could the kid who had it all together, let it all go?
        Easy. God said so.
        But not everything is that easy. During a still quiet moment the next day, I asked God what I could do. How could I help my husband who was feeling a bit beat down? How could I keep from feeling the same way?
       "I have nothing to offer in this situation, God. What do I do?”
      “Call your dad and ask him to fix the bus.” God says to me.
      “Uhm, that has nothing to do with our car situation.”
      “You asked. I answered. Be humble.’”
      With fear and trepidation, I called my dad, who loves me to death and would do anything for me MOST of the time, but I hadn’t wanted to ask him. Did I mention my dad was a diesel mechanic and the bus hadn’t been running for two months? Did I mention my dad has a really bad temper and that I cringed as I dialed?  I called anyway and he came down that same weekend.
       We had coffee and lunch. He fixed the bus in thirty minutes and he genuinely enjoyed hanging out with us on Jubilee.  I think he might have even fell a little bit in love with her motor and more importantly, it felt like something else was fixed between us all.
       We still aren’t sure exactly what God is doing with us. The hardest part, besides repairing our marriage, has been figuring out what we do now.  And we know our family and friends are watching. They were nervous at first, afraid they wouldn’t see us very much or that we might fall into harm’s way.  They’ve seen us so much more now that we have more time and mental energy. They feel better about us going, even anticipating what might be ahead for us.
        And we are, too. Anticipating. Setbacks and blessings continue to remind us to ask as humbly as we can, without selfish ambition, ‘What are you showing us, God? We want to know the way.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Going with The Flow

Going With The Flow
     I have the ability to make all machines, zoom and spin in my presence, pipes burst, water overflow, computers crash, printers go “offline” (Do they do that anymore?), cars sputter and die slow pathetic deaths, . . . etc. This is not me bragging about how cosmically electric I am. It only takes a short while hanging out with me before you come to believe I possess a strange hum, an odd aura, thousands of wonky    amoebas . . .

     So it should be no surprise when I describe a weekend in my life:

     The weekend before the unveiling of a book I helped edit for Longview ISD, I decided to let my sister-in law, who’s in beauty school, first bleach my bangs white then dye them a dark, almost unintelligible purple. I had wanted purple streaks for a while, and she had just successfully colored her own bangs two nights before, not to mention a three of her friends, so I let her.         
     My bangs looked like a bad tie die job. We had to settle for hot pink. Way more noticeable HOT PINK. Longview, never knew what hit’em. 

     The very next day a few hours before a performance, my kids and I gathered the ingredients for lemon bars to make for a youth group bake sale.
     We were out of powdered sugar, so I walked to the store. When I came back a heretofore unnamed child we’ll call, uh, mid-kid, used regular sugar instead, even though he’s made this recipe with me a bunch of times.
     Seeing the look on my face, he switched into angel child, an ability he gleaned from his father, and assured me it would be fine, just fine. I assured him he was about to get a chemistry lesson. We cooked the hardest lemon bars known to man.  The third little piggy could have built a lemon-scented house with those things.

     That night we performed at Swirl-A-Bout with Mad Swirl and various other artists. I had been asked to write a poem for the fire dancers’ finale. Chris and I had been struggling over the order of the show and he said what he always does when I crave the tiniest bit of structure: “Why can’t you just go with the flow?”
       My usual response: “You mean why can’t I go with your flow?” was replaced with: “There are six different acts going on tonight and I will go with all their flows if someone will just give me a hint as to what their flow might be before hand. This is not an open mic-It’s a paid event in an art gallery. . . blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
            “You don’t have to do it,” he assured me kindly, which in my mind sounded like, “We don’t need you.” In his mind, “No pressure if you want to bow out.”
            I rarely bow out of anything. When I do, it’s messy.
             Chris left to mingle with the artists. I stewed in the car where I watched the dancers and fire eaters and visual artists go in and out drinking wine, smoking American Spirits and chatting, the girls with their dark red lipsticks and black shocky bangs against their pale tattooed skin, when I realized the poem I carefully crafted for the fire dancers finale didn’t fit.
      I rewrote it in the parking lot, going with my flow of anger and abandonment while working in some carnivalesque images. The dancers loved it.

     That night, at two o’clock in the morning, two days before we were to sell our Honda so we could get a mini-van, the hood of the car flew open and folded in half as we entered the Mix Master. Chris had been in a hit and run (his third hit and run, fourteenth wreck (but that’s another blog altogether (btaba)) when He swears I said, “That’s what you get for not fixing it in the first place.”
I swear, I am not that stupid.
     I said, “That’s what WE get for not fixing it in the first place.”
Chris’ little sister, the same one who dyed my hair, can put her own Honda back together with her eyes closed. She’s like Michelle Rodriguez in the Fast and the Furious, only meanerJ She assured us we only needed a little wrench and the parts from Certa-fit.  But we procrastinated because, well, you read the first paragraph. These things usually don’t go well.
     I said WE!
     Nevertheless a frozen quiet spilled over the car as we realized we were not going to be able to sell anything and we would be stuffing our kids and their friends into this car for the next few months, hoping the front end didn’t shimmy off onto the highway.
    The next morning Chris and I lay in bed before church making jokes about the car, the lemon bars, my pink hair and making up for the tension from the night before. Later in church, I had that sick feeling I get between my rib cage, when I have thought or hoped or assumed my flow was in tune with God’s flow and He’s telling me it isn’t.
     I pray to always be in it, but half the time I think I’m taking off into the stars like a spaceship, when I am really just a spinning pinwheel, fooling myself with my own flow.
     He thumps me  . . . a few times, gently reminding me to, “Be still and know My Flow.” (No really, that’s what he said:)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Supper of the Lamb

This might be cheating, but here's a link to some thoughts of mine on a book I read recently. Yes, it's a different blog altogether, but maybe this emphasizes the 'diaspora' aspect of this blog?

A nice touch or sophistry? Discuss.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Day of Rest

"So on the seventh day, He rested from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it Holy..." - Genesis 2:2-3

Since the summertime, my husband and I have taken a rest from formal church-going. Various factors in our lives led us to this point, and perhaps some would say we sin in doing so, although I sincerely hope not. However, we have not deserted the universal church--the fellowship of the brethren. And I find that in foregoing church proper--the sermons, the Sunday outfits, the obligatory over-the-church-pew handshakes, the little plastic communion cups, the bad music--I have found better rest on Sunday than I have in many years. Rest and healing, which we both needed.

Those of you who know Martin--which, now that I think of it, is all of you-- know that he is a rebel, but a rebel for Jesus. He seeks truth, not just to know it but to live by it. Since I am his daughter, and know him at his Sunday afternoon sleepiest and Monday morning grumpiest, you know I mean what I say. The point is: well, it is Sunday morning, and we are at my father's house, resting and worshiping. My mother and father, myself and my husband, my brother, and my daughter, and a few close friends. A handful of rebels for Jesus, seeking rest and fellowship.

I am as sensitive as any to the unbearably tacky and overly sentimental, so please forgive the pseudo-poetic format, but I feel moved to describe how I feel about this.

The pale winter sun filters through naked trees. Worship has finished. Voices lighten with conversation, laughter. My little brother jumps up, happy to be free. My daughter rests at peace in her grandmother's arms. Three men--father, husband, and friend--play jazz in the living room. Doorbell rings: friendly voices, greetings, hugs. Fellowship flows into lunch. Food passed around a table. Chicken, vegetables, hearty fare for hungry people. Chink of dishes in the sink. A Christmas toy brings smiles to adults gathered around the table. Feet on chairs. Whir of the microwave. Cups of coffee passed from hand to hand. Creamer? Sugar? Peaceful, interested conversation. Friends and family sit close, heads leaning in.

Church is worship.
Church is communion.
Church is laughter.
Church is food.
Church is conversation.
Church is family.
Rest, rest, and rest is church.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Aw Shucks...

Like I was telling a brother today, there aren't many things in life that can test the mettle of one's faith like death. So, to continue what I started in "A Whiff of Heaven" I went back to the Darlene G. Cass Women's Imaging Center on Tuesday of this week to get my cyst aspirated. If the fluid was too thick to aspirate they would then switch to a bigger needle and do a full-on biopsy (think geological core sampling). Well, you can imagine my relief when I saw the cyst on the sonogram monitor begin to deflate like a slowly collapsing balloon. The doctor (he turned out to be a brother who attends PCPC) told me that the fluid would be sent off to a lab and the results wouldn't be known until later on in the week. In less than 30 minutes, what had taken years (?) to develop within the inner recesses of my flesh, was now gone. Zip. Nil. Nada. But hold the bus. The fluid could potentially be packed with tiny psychotic cells hell bent on taking down its human host; i.e., me. Wow. Could this be it? Could this be how the Lord takes me out of this world and into the next? Is this the moment of truth when I actually get to find out if what I've believed for over 30 years is actually true? I can honestly say (and I'm not saying this because of supernatural courage on my part) that I was somewhat disappointed when the doctor called me yesterday and left a voicemail telling me the good news that the cyst was benign. Big sigh. I guess the Lord will take me another day in another way. Blessed is His name.

Aging Epics

From mother’s breast to death’s cold endless reign,
Children run to taste the fruit of eden,
But bitter is the taste of life’s first pain,
Only sorrow fills the place of heaven.

O if man could only see his shadow,
Surely he would scourge the darkened image.
For letting dawn’s light waken cock’s to crow,
Only burdens sanity’s self-scrimmage.

Would death find peace for those who yearn for it?
May it never be—for death finds fire.
Nor does splurging non-chalance soothe reaped guilt.
Its truth hardens hearts mirage of mire.

The nonage of man seeks his entity;
Yet aging epics fail maturity.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Have you ever been so hungry that you ate so fast you never even really tasted what you were eating?

I love people.

Weird segue I know, but hang in there and maybe it will make sense.

I love how people get excited and flap their hands so hard they knock their drink over then turn a bright shade of red as they try to scoop up an ocean of soda with the tiniest bit of napkin.

I love how a girl will move the same piece of hair out of her face thirty times before she digs in her gigantic purse to find a clip, but instead finds her new tube of drama queen chap stick, smoothes it on her lips and goes back to moving the hair out of her face at least thirty more times before she remembers she needs a clip.

I love people who scream way too loud at football games. I love people who play soccer even when they’re “old.” I love songwriter’s who make me laugh. I love visual artists who use junk. I love people who cook fried foods and eat them! I love the cadence of certain people’s prayers and I treasure up the sounds of their voices in my heart. I love people a bit on the crazy side and I seem to attract some of the most broken. And if I talk to you for over, oh, say . . . ten seconds, you are my friend. Period. Which means I must love you.

There is nothing wrong with loving people, but the way I loved in the past was a bit wonky. People didn’t go into my heart the right way and I developed a strange sense of responsibility. I was responsible for everyone and everyone had the same level of priority.

For many years, I ran around crazy-eyed, stuffing people, with all their glorious intricacies and destructive tendencies into my heart. A friend said maybe I was starved.

That maybe my co-dependent cycle of spinning, self-sabotage was the result of pouring out what had never been given to me . . . stability, sanity, love. That the whole time I thought I was loving by “helping, rescuing, fixing” was just an attempt to be . . . loved¾truly.

When I finally hit a wall and the spinning stopped, I could barely move. I didn’t know how to go about in the world, what my motives were, what love really meant. I stopped using the L-word for a while. I didn’t trust it.

But I was still surrounded by people. My friends and family made sure of that. SO, what was I to do?

My friend Judy who loves to be around people once opened and closed her hands like the claw in that pizzeria vending machine game while saying “people, people, people.” She was hungry for them.

And I knew exactly what she meant. Only, it seemed to me, she new how to nourish people and be nourished by people, while I had just been on a hard-core binge.

But I couldn’t stop loving people just because I was doing it wrong. I just had to scrap about nine-tenths of the ideas I had about love and start from a sorta scratch, continuously reminding myself that God loves me, even if people don’t.

So now, I am in be still training. Not tame, but still. When I’m still I can listen to God and He teaches me. One of the things He is teaching me is that his treasures are meant to for me to receive as a blessing, not for my indulgence.

That any blessing He bestows on me, is just that, a blessing, not to be devoured hungrily in place of His love, but to be enjoyed as a result of His love.

Oh, the love of Jesus.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

...As Long As We Shall Live

Well, I've come full circle. I ran with my own challenge to see my life through the lens of God's goodness and as a result added new words to the lexicon of grace. There is a fog (I think it's referred to as a "veil" in the good book or, according to Joe, a "brain cloud"), that fills my mind, keeping me from seeing things the way God sees things. I call good evil and evil good. I see pain coming my way and interpret it only as a malevolent force of evil, failing to see the good intent of God. If a good atheist read my thoughts over the last week, s/he could easily conclude that I closed my eyes to what was really going on and chose to live within a delusional state of mind where I only saw what I wanted to see. So be it. In the end, it seems that all insight can't help but be subjective and prone to corruption. The gospel doesn't deny the corruption of all things. It doesn't baby us, telling us that we are really good children who will live pain free lives if we only believe. The Savior revealed the path by walking it himself, showing us what to expect. Yes, we believe in the pie-in-the-sky resurrection, but before that comes the blood-on-the-ground cross. The atheist is impacted by evil and comes to the natural conclusion of a godless, meaningless existence. I see the evil and, by the grace of God alone, come to the conclusion that grace abounds even more the way light appears brighter when it is surrounded by darkness. Pray for me as I pray for you to taste and see the movement of grace in all the varying facets of life—in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sadness and in joy, to cherish and continually bestow upon him our hearts' deepest devotion, forsaking all others, keeping ourselves only unto Him as long as we shall live.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rightly Dividing Life

Most of life is filled with the mundane. The word mundane is derived from the latin and in time past meant "of the world"—in contrast to things "of the church." So it's sort of a no brainer to say "I live a mundane existence." But, of course, we folk of faith like to divide things up: the sacred from the secular, right from wrong, good from evil, etc. And it is right that we learn how to divide things rightly. That's where, however, we folk of the faith are notorious for dividing things to the point where whatever life was there in the first place has long since departed and gone to greener and brighter pastures beside quieter waters. Could this be the reason why the word "mundane" in recent times (well, at least since the 19th cent.) means "lacking interest or excitement" Well, today, grace came to me through the mundane wailings of a little baby and the excellent combination of Crater Lake Blue cheese on unsalted crackers and a red Bordeaux wine from France. My granddaughter, Miriam, is a delight to my heart. Even her cries for mama or milk are music to my ears. While I was holding her, she began to cry something awful. It was loud enough to rouse Jenny from her studies (Jenny was staying over for the weekend as her hubby, Andrew, went to visit his dad in Houston) to check on me to see if I was OK with a screaming baby. My response? If she's OK with me holding the screaming baby, I'm OK with it. Jenny returned to her med books, and I returned to gazing at my beautiful wailing granddaughter. In about five minutes, however, she soon fell asleep in my arms and looked like an angel at rest—well, at least what I imagine an angel resting looks like. I can't help but think that this is the way the Lord sees us. We're not just teary eyed, hungry babies with empty bellies and poopy diapers. We are precious to him and he delights in everything that we are, and the only thing that really gets him upset with us is when we fail to see him as he truly is: a loving father who delights in his children. Fast forward to dinner time: Andrew came back from Houston earlier in the day but went straight to work. When he returned he came back with a small bottle of Chãteau St. Georges, a full bodied Claret produced from the classic Bordeaux grape. He also brought back a little less than 1/2 a pound of Crater Lake Blue cheese which sells for about $23.50 a pound. All the above was eaten with unsalted crackers and other simple but rich fare. Need I say more? The food nourished the body and the conversation nourished the soul. The secular and the sacred met on the plate, the palette, and the interplay between friends and family. Ok, enough already. Grace continues to overflow.
Under Grace,

Friday, January 15, 2010

Loving the Unlovable

How did I know that I was loved by God today? At least for a fraction of the day, I was able to focus on a number of faces that were not my own. Left to myself, I would simply be all caught up with my own things: my own face, my own thoughts, my own words, my, my, my. To actually see something or someone outside of oneself is a good thing. To actually love something or someone else outside of oneself is a divine thing. I can't help but be self-centered by virtue of the fact that I am always with myself. Wherever I go, there I am. Who can save me from this body of death? From this perpetual orbit around my own pitiful persona? Thanks be to God who saves me through Jesus Christ and the command to love my unlovable neighbor as I love my own unlovable self.
Under Grace,

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Whiff of Heaven

Today I had a...a...mammogram. That's right. I said mammogram. Let me explain. I have diabetes and consequently high cholesterol. Anyway, last week I went in for the usual blood work to check my sugar and cholesterol levels, and earlier this week I went in to see my doctor to talk about the the lab results. The results? All good. My A1c (sugar) and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels were down while my HDL (good cholesterol) level was up. Couldn't ask for a better situation other than complete healing. The doctor was happy. I was happy. But just as I was about to leave, I said something like, "By the way, I'm sure it's nothing but I've noticed a... a...lump growing in left...ah...chest area (I somehow couldn't bring myself to say "breast") but I'm sure it's nothing." My doctor sighed and said, "Let's take a look at it." To make a long story short, the next thing I knew I was getting a mammogram and a sonogram at the Darlene G. Cass Women's Imaging Center. To my surprise (and reduction of manly embarrassment) there were a handful of men there as well, and, fortunately, a separate entrance for us to access the exam rooms. Looks like it's not unusual for folk like us (i.e., men) to find things growing in particular parts of our bodies. The results? I have a cyst the size of a pea in my left (OK, I'll say it) "breast." I saw it plainly and clearly on both the mammogram and sonogram. It was a spherical white object in the mammogram and a spherical black object in the sonogram. The sonogram technician told me that "black" means it's a cyst, i.e., a pocket of fluid. The doctor who came in afterwards to talk to me about the cyst told me that I would have to get it aspirated and its contents looked at in the lab. What does any of this have to do with grace? Here are a few musings that popped into my mind: (1) For some reason just before leaving my doctor's office, the memory of the lump just so happened to pop into my mind. Coincidence? The Holy Spirit? (2) The mammogram and the sonogram are amazing metaphors for the Word of God as it assists us in "seeing the things that are unseen." (3) the lump in my chest (there I go again), is a reminder of my mortality. Whether it's malignant or benign, if it isn't this it's going to be that: in other words, nobody is getting out of this alive. Yes, captain, the Titanic is going down. (4) the aroma of heaven, the fragrance of life, is beginning to fill my nostrils. Well, it's just a whiff at the moment, but I'm looking forward to the full bouquet. In fact, let me end this post with a song I wrote called "Longing for Home."

There's a country I've never seen—
It borders the edge of my waking dreams.
Sometimes in silence I can almost hear,
Its far off music, sweet and clear.

I can't shake this yearning of my soul,
I'm longing for my home.

Some folk look back to the good ol' days,
To picture perfect memories through a child's gaze.
Some folk see the future with its promises sublime—
I see them as mere shadows of a place beyond time.

I can't shake this yearning of my soul,
I'm longing for my home.

Like a fish out of water,
Like a man lost at sea,
I find myself alone, longing just to be
At the end of the story,
At the heart of each poem,
I can hear the echo of my home.

Behind every rain cloud the sun shines free,
The King and his kingdom surround you and me,
So live life with courage and love without fear,
Hope in the darkness, our home is near.

I can't shake this yearning of my soul,
I'm longing for my home.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
To home the Lord my soul will take.

I can't shake this yearning of my soul,
I'm longing for my home.

I can't shake this yearning of my soul,
I'm finally going home.

Under Grace,

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Grace in Brokenness

Grace came as I wrestled with how to enter into several people's lives. Their pain was so intense I really had nothing to offer but a deep sense of my own inadequacy. The image is of a little child extending his hand upward with only shattered fragments of a treasured possession resting on an open palm. I couldn't fix them. I couldn't fix myself. BUT that awareness didn't drive me to despair. It drove me to my knees before "him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us..." (Eph.3:20). There is a lightness to being and to the burdens that we have to bear if somehow we are brought to the end of our efforts where we can see with clarity the work (and limitations) of our own hands, but, more importantly, the perfect work of the Savior's hands.
Under Grace,

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Vast, Unmeasured, Boundless, Free!

Grace came to me today in the form of...
—a hot steaming bowl of steel-cut Irish Oatmeal doused in butter, cream, a sprinkle of Cinnamon, and my wife's fig-strawberry jam...
—a brother who isn't afraid to bare his soul as he struggles with learning how to distinguish between his own voice and the Voice of God. It was added grace when this brother graced my family with a box of Fuji apples.
—news from my doctor that my blood-sugar and cholesterol levels are under control...
—an Episcopalian priest's thoughts on theology and food which can be found in his book entitled "The Supper of the Lamb." (btw, his name is Robert Farrar Capon.) Here's food for thought from his book: "Man's real work is to look at the things of the world and to love them for what they are. That is, after all, what God does, and man was not made in God's image for nothing. The fruits of his attention can be seen in all the arts, crafts, and much curious and loving attention was expended by the first man who looked hard enough at the insides of trees, the entrails of cats, the hind ends of horses and the juice of pine trees to realize he could turn them all into the first fiddle." (p.19)...
—a box from Japan which included the costume Jason will be wearing for a film we are planning to shoot sometime in March?
—dinner (ravioli, pasta salad with seasoned shrimp, real butter, bread, tossed salad, house dressing, and apple crisp with vanilla ice cream for dessert) at a neighbor's house where we got to meet and compare notes with a young family who will be heading out soon to Japan as missionaries.
—etc. etc.

And how did I respond to all these (and many more) manifestations of grace? I ate, drank, shared, spoke and listened to, read, looked at, and received it all (well...most of it at least) with thanksgiving.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

Under Grace,

Monday, January 11, 2010

Of Babies, Broccoli, a Broken Faux Roman Column Plant Base, and a Bench (that nearly broke the ol' man's back)

So did I live like I knew I was loved by God...yesterday? Yes and No. And that's probably as it will always be with me this side of heaven. But first the "no." I was in the car with my wife when she said something (or I said something) that triggered a fit of rage within my soul. It had to do with the past. It had to do with the limitations of my wife's love and my own. It had to do with old wounds that serve as constant reminders that I am still a broken vessel in desperate need of the grace and mercy of God. Any way, I definitely was not aware (or at least chose not to be aware) of the grace of God at that moment in the car. I was aware of my anger and it colored the world red, and something in me didn't want to allow God to change the color. BUT then after a short period of strained silence we came home to the smell of a hot pot of Italian Broccoli soup with twisted strands of pesto-egg noodles that my son-in-law, Andrew, made from scratch—including the twisted noodles that my son, Jason, helped to twist with his own nine-year-old-challenged fingers. It was transforming. Yes, the kitchen was transformed into a war zone of scattered flour, spices and dirty measuring utensils, but more importantly my heart was transformed from a raging beast to a appreciative (and hungry) father-in-law. And then there was The Baby. Miriam, my almost two-month-old grand daughter, is a constant source of grace. Her every movement of eye, tongue, finger or toe is a revelation of the divine. And in-between the broccoli soup and baby, my wife looked into my eyes to see if the beast was still present, and it wasn't, and we gave each other a peace offering in the form of two sets of petaled lips meeting. And then there was the broken faux Roman Column Plant Base. As we were savoring the delicate soup at the table complete with fresh bread and real butter with browned bits of garlic, someone commented on handsome and rather large L-shaped wooden bench that sat in our living room. It is a recent addition to the eclectic collection of furniture that fills the Hironaga household. The comment lead to a quick story about how the man of the house attempted to lift the huge thing on his back from the backyard to the front of the house because it couldn't fit through the back door and in the process knocked over and broke the aforementioned faux plaster plant base which led to a lowering of the bench and an admission of defeat which lead to the wife-of-the-house coming out with her bundled grand-daughter to the back yard to see what all the commotion was about and rather than pointing out how foolish the 50-year-old-man-of-the-house was for trying to carry something on his back that was meant for a much younger and stronger back, she instead made a simple suggestion of tilting the bench at a certain angle which would make it possible to slide it through the little gate instead of the herculean attempt to hoist it over the fence....well, I think you get the point. That the old man didn't get angry at the old woman's suggestion was grace. That there was the bench in the backyard in the first place was grace. How did the bench happen to get there in the first place (along with two tables)? Grace. Here's the story in one breath: went to La Madeleine (a french bakery) on Saturday to meet a good brother for breakfast (a habit we started over 10 years ago) and talked with the manager about how sad it was that all the old scarred and stained wooden furniture had been replaced with sleek new steel-legged mass produced stuff to which she agreed and said that there was still a table or two left in the back and that I could have them if I could carry them to which I replied, "Wow! Really?" OK, I've gone long enough, but I know I could go on a lot more. Well, I guess I'll have to continue this evening. See you then.
Under Grace,

Invitation to Naming Grace

Brothers and Sisters in Grace,
Do you remember the question I asked most of you when we started our one-on-one (or two or three) meetings? It went something like "Do you truly believe that God loves you?" Do you remember your answer? Most of you nodded your heads up and down without hesitation: "Of course, I do." Do you then remember the invitation I gave to you shortly thereafter? It went something like "Ok, then, what I want you to do this week is at the end of each day, before you lay your head down to sleep, I want you to ask yourself a simple question: 'Did I live life today like someone who knew he/she was loved by God?' If the answer is yes then write down how your life manifested an awareness of God's love. If the answer is no then write down the ways your life failed to take into account the love of God." I then asked you to be prepared to give an account of your week the next time we met. Do you remember the answers you brought to the table? If my memory serves me right, most of you came to the meeting with your heads and hearts a little lowered. We then began (I should say "continued") the journey of learning to "name" the movements of grace (and sin) in our lives. Fast forward to today. What if we all try to answer the same question at the end of each day this week, but instead of waiting until next Monday to give our answers, what if we simply jotted them down in this little safe space so others can share in the glory (or the gore) of what's placed on the table? For what it's worth, I will attempt to articulate the ruminations of my soul. Please feel free to add yours.
Under Grace,
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