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A Holy Experience


Audio for this post:
if you’d like to listen to today’s post — just click above on the arrow (not the text) for  an audio recording of this farm girl reading today’s post — and then scroll through the post?  {Consider turning off music by clicking the speaker bar near the bottom of  the left margin?}

The kid went to get a big machete.

A year and a half later, I think of that everyday.

How he and his brother took off down that dirt road with their last handful of American tourist dollars to spend on that one longed for glint of steel before the flight home.

How miracles happen and you better believe it — or you don’t have to, and they still happen anyway. 

How there’s this space between your vision and your hand and your heart that can only be measured by longing. 




Ralph Martindale Machete


Now, honestly, I was of the mind that there was a snowball’s chance in any flame-blistering place of your choice that either of the boys could get their hands on a machete.

Yeah, sure Madame Cheap Cheap (a name like that when you’re peddling? Sheer marketing genius!) —  yeah, sure she had a a clattering pile of blades down at the makeshift market but the thing was the kid didn’t have enough greenbacks for what Madame Cheap Cheap was asking.

“Look, boys, first, you don’t want to insult her.” I walked quietly behind our two oldest boys.

“And second, are you sure you want to spend your last American coin on a machete? How are you going to get that on a plane?” Most times I do a poor tootin’ job of masking my maternal angst.

“And how are you going to make sure none of your little brothers ends up wearing a five inch machete gash?”

“It’s called checked luggage, Mom.” Smart boy. “And using your brains and being safe.” Yep, brilliant. Gets that from his father, he does.

“Look, I’ve wanted a machete all week. No —- I have wanted a machete a whole lot longer than that,” Caleb turns and hollers it back at me over his shoulder.

“And c’mon, how often does a farm boy from Canada really get a chance to buy a machete? Yeah, I don’t have what she’s asking — but I’ve really wanted one for a long time and I’ll just offer her what I’ve got and see what happens? It can’t hurt.”

Actually, boy —— there’s lots of things that can hurt… but that doesn’t mean that we’d ever want the ache of them to go away because of what that would mean. 

I hang back when we get to Madame Cheap Cheap’s.  It’s not that her Creole accent is thick, hard to understand, as much as it is that bartering makes me break out into hives and my throat grow thick and dry.

Because really, I’ve never figured it out: How do you reconcile your frugality and haggling with someone else’s dignity?  

So I spin her wooden globes.

The Final Cut



Saint Lucia Day 2 (Feb 3, 2011) (74)






I spin her wooden globes, polished and tilted, without the texture and roughness that is reality.

Hand drawn and grainy. All the world perched on a wooden stand— a flurry of mountain ranges flinging shadows out across plateaus of ocean waves, shorelines that keep kissing waters that never stop pulling away.

It’s all mere suggestion, these haphazard marks on Madame Cheap Cheap’s wooden spheres. You can’t draw the valleys of grief, the craters left by the dreams and stars and planes and people that fall from the sky.

You can’t map the way of migrating wings, the way of people trying to find their roads and each other and meaning, you can’t map the way hope persistently flies.

Go ahead — how do you put your finger on the place and your people and trace their way back to the place where anything is beautifully possible? What do the headlines and heart fractures mean about the kind of world in which we’ve been set down? How do impossible things revolve and change?

I slowly spin Madame Cheap Cheap’s globes.

The boy who takes after his Dad and has made peace with haggling somewhere down deep in the recesses of his own soul, he nudges my shoulder to show me: he’s 12 dollars poorer but he’s wielding a machete and is grinning like he gently swallowed a canary — and not the sharp edge of the blade.

“Happy, Son?” The kid grins ridiculously.

“Yep — now let’s go fly this baby home.” He cannot stop running his hand along the gleaming edge of silver.

Then the kid turns. I’ve got a globe in my hands, a curvature of two oceans, oceans of pain and the impossible. And he reaches out to spin it— “You like this globe?”

Yeah, boy — I like this globe.

I like this world of wanderers and and wonder-ers and the brave who don’t know how to believe that good is coming around the bend anymore for them.

I like the doubters and the dogged fighters in places no one ever sees, I like the limping and the weary and the busted and the lame and the prodigals who can’t for the life of them remember their beloved name.

I don’t say all of that —- I just say yeah. Yeah, I like this globe.

The kid with the machete nods. I slip the teetering globe back on the shelf. Tap the flashing edge of his prized blade. “Nice.”

And start the trek back up the dusty road, back up the road that is straight up hill that no one’s ever bothered to give a name.

But when the boys catch up to me, halfway back up the hill — there’s no machete. All Caleb’s got in his hand is just that: one wobbling globe.

“Wait —- whaaaa?” I stop short, mid hill.




What can I say, Mom?” Caleb half smiles. “You mean the world to me. Well — at least a globe.”

He winks, shrugs his shoulders like it’s no big deal, like the weight of the world really can slip off your shoulders.

“So I changed my mind.”

And I etch that: Minds can change, kids can change, things can change, people can change, the world can change.

The unlikely happens, the unbelievable proves to be believable, and the unexpected turns around and brushes up against you and you remember your name, the hope in your DNA.

You remember: We get to change the world— every time we choose to change personally.

We get to change the world every time we choose to have a heart change.

The same Jesus Who changed water into wine can change the hard kid into the kid with the big heart, can change your wounds into wisdom, can change your impossible into the impressive, can change nightmares into that which is only dreamed.

They say time changes things — when mostly time only changes your scenery. You need One beyond time to change everything else.

And the old Best Book, it testifies to the honest thing: that God works everything together “for the good” of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). And what in this tilting world, pray tell, is good? Good means being changed to be like Him who is Best. (Rom. 8:29). Thus — all change is meant to be good change, changing us to be like Him who is Best.

We fly home from that Haiti island in the middle of it’s own aching oceans. I put that wooden globe on a shelf as a global witness that machetes can be exchanged and things and kids can change, minds can change, the world, your world, can change. And there is not anything to fear.

Change is as positive as the promises of God.

That one little wooden world sits here with it’s own turning, this quiet dawning that I feel: There is no soul growth without change, no change without surrender, no surrender without wound. Wounds are what break open the soul to plant the seeds of our growth.

The children keep growing, growing up and away from all that was.

The clock ticks on at the top of the stairs. There is time and history and headlines and the moving sun and you can always count on things changing and there is one sure revolution:

You can handle change as you much as you take His unchanging hand.

The globe that’s made from the wood of a surrendered Tree, it sits on the shelf and you can see —

How it moves from dark to light.



Related Post: When You are Looking for Hope

and the audio of today’s post:

and if you wanted to listen to the audio of this post, click above on the arrow (not the text) for a recording of me reading today’s post from the farm. {Consider turning off music by clicking the speaker bar near the bottom of  the left margin?}

Thursday, July 24th, 2014 | Eucharistic Living, Faith, Family, Haiti | Visit Post


So after dinner, she picks coneflowers in the garden.

Cradles the long stems in her apron skirt, carries them up through the picket gate.

And she turns to me on the top step of the porch, holds her apron out to me, all those purple petals — art in an apron.

Why is there all this loveliness?

She wants to know.




I almost tell her — The World is full of loveliness because it’s full of of His love.

Isn’t that the meaning of beauty?

The fundamental purpose of loveliness — is to convey His love.

Everywhere, wildflowers, even in cracks in concrete sidewalks. Everywhere, this fragrance, this pursuit, this passion.

But I don’t know how to say that — when I know that coneflowers unfold off the porch and she stands there with an apron heavy with garden glory and the sunflowers nod yes, when planes fall from the sky, when war rages and girls are kidnapped and parents die from broken hearts.  Why is there all this loveliness?

Don’t you mean — why is there famine and why is there this shocking disparity and what is right in a world of diets and death by starvation?

But doesn’t she really have a right to question it all — the sunflowers sparking in sun flare, the light falling late through the trees, all gold like this, the phlox blooming along the picket? I see that too, on the porch. The extravagant art that makes up this world, it does jockey for an answer.

The existence of loveliness everywhere, it begs explaining.

If I raise the problem of evil in this world — shouldn’t she raise higher the greater problem of good? If evil is seeming evidence to eradicate God from our mental landscape, then doesn’t goodness, even in this apron, testify to the gospel truth of God?

How can we behold loveliness  — and say that this world looks like this if there were no God?

I don’t know if I have ever thought of this before — the great problem of good on this planet.

The philosopher Augustine had asked two questions of the world:

“If there is no God, why is there so much good?

If there is a God, why is there so much evil?”

I wonder if I have spent a lifetime murmuring under my breath only the second question?

But why don’t I first get hung up on the first question? The question my girl is bringing in with the flowers — why all this loveliness and where does it come from?

The great problem of good on this planet implies that there is a Great God in heaven.

Do we not wonder at the why of good because fundamentally all human beings presume the overspilling grace of God? That good is our intended atmosphere — and evil is the exception. Isn’t our default to ignore the expected and focus on the unexpected?

And even our deeming anything good or evil, it betrays our deep-seated beliefs —- because how can mere nature be either? Isn’t it just is?

To even assess events as good and evil reveals our true paradigm: we believe there is a moral center at the center of the cosmos, God at the axis of the universe.

But if there is really a God at the center of the universe, love at the core of the cosmos, love manifesting itself as loveliness in the garden —- doesn’t He care about children dying in the Middle East, about children being shot out of the sky, about children caught in the Iraqi crisis who are desperate for someone to remember them before they breathe their last gaping breath sometime this afternoon?

Yet if I think God doesn’t care about the hurting — aren’t I believing the chief lie of humanity?

The one hissed in the garden to Eve, the first deception that deceives us still — that God doesn’t care about the needs of His children.

And maybe this is why the world hemorrhages— if we think God doesn’t care — why should we?

Isn’t it easier to blame Him?

When I believe the Edenic lie that God doesn’t care — is that the excuse to turn away, to spread the lie that God doesn’t care — when maybe the truth is that it’s humanity that doesn’t care?

If we love because He first loved us… do we now care, because we know He did first care, has always cared, will always care and has the nail scars to definitively prove that He cares.

If all the world believed the truth of God’s character — that God cares —- wouldn’t this world become a caring place?

He cares, so we care; He loved first, so we love now.

Why all this loveliness?






Do I tell our Hope-girl just this —

that there is enough loveliness, enough beauty, enough peace, enough love in this world — enough food in this world —- if we would just share?

I pick one coneflower out her apron, twirl it between fingers.

It’s God, isn’t it? — All this loveliness…”  All this love in the face of our warring…

She says it to me, picking out one of the coneflower to inhale deep…. her picking up the scent of God.

She didn’t need me to say anything.

There are things that need no words.

His love clearly manifests itself also in the “problem of good.”

In every cone-flower curling itself into a megaphone of mercy.

This one long echo of evidence —

A love lingering bravely and boldly on ….



Related: 3 Things to Hold on To When Life Hurts



Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | 1000Gifts | Visit Post


When the three oldest kids and a bunch of their friends and I met Jefferson Bethke – he knocked us all over with this brilliance, humour, and genuine care and warmth. He’s the kind of guy you want in your faith community, down your street, hanging out around a campfire with his wife and baby girl being real and sharing real Jesus. Jefferson has that compelling story of overcoming a painful childhood of poverty and a broken home, and this gives him a unique perspective on the grace of God and the work of Jesus in his life and the lives of others. It’s this perspective that has catapulted him into the national conversation regarding religion and spirituality, allowing his message to connect at a heart level with an audience ranging from atheists to nationally recognized faith leaders. Jefferson is quick to acknowledge that he’s not a pastor or theologian, but simply a regular, twenty-something who cried out for a life greater than the one for which he had settled. Along his journey, he discovered the real Jesus, who beckoned him beyond the props of false religion. It’s an absolute crazy grace to welcome him to the farm’s front porch today…


by Jefferson Bethke

Growing up I always used to think I was too dirty to come to God.

Looking back I realize how so much of my performance (whether athletic, religious, academic, etc) came from a place of me feeling like I had to prove something—to God and others.

I wasn’t good enough, so I was going to do something in hopes that someone would tell me that wasn’t true anymore.








When I started following Jesus, and grace hit me on the head like a ton of bricks, I still struggled with letting it permeate every last part of me.

I still thought I had to attain a certain spiritual level of awesomeness before I could really receive grace.

That was until I read Roman 4:5, which I’d read plenty of times before, but that particular night God made it jump out of the page (He has a funny way of doing that at times, huh?): “and to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” Romans 4:5

Have you ever sat in the weight of that scripture?

Have you ever realized just how scandalous that verse truly is?

Sometimes in our sanitized, sterile, flat readings we can miss out on the completely explosive language the scripture writers are using to get their point across.

It says God justifies the ungodly.

Or in other words, He makes right  — the ones who aren’t right.

He makes holy the filthy.

He purifies the impure.

He calls the wicked blameless.

He justifies the ungodly.

What’s funny is usually if we are ungodly — we hide.

Hiding, is a natural response to sin, just like our long ago parents who once hid behind a bush and covered themselves with fig leaves. But in that same story, God’s heart has been the same. He cries, “Adam, where are you?”

Now, let’s be honest, God is God so I doubt He is really wondering what bush they hid behind.

It’s a call. A beckoning. A plea of the heart—where is my son and daughter? When will they come home?

And it’s true in this verse too, God doesn’t hide whatsoever what He is in the business of doing.

He boasts as bright as the sun that He makes right those who deserve the opposite. In a weird way it seems the only qualification for us to be justified is to be ungodly. How weird is that? It’s like God is saying the only way to qualify is to admit you don’t qualify.

What’s interesting though is what precedes that verse.

To the one who does not work.

Now, let me clarify working isn’t a bad thing. Discipline is not a bad thing.

But in regards to salvation it is a terrible thing.

You can’t work no matter how hard you try. Any amount of work we think we can add to the Cross of Jesus is in essence saying “Jesus, you’re cross wasn’t enough.”

How beautiful is that though?

You don’t have to try harder, you don’t have to be better, you don’t have to do more, you just have to stop working and TRUST in the one who justifies the ungodly!

Do you struggle with porn? Do you think you always have to give up your body to be loved? Are you addicted to the praise and approval of others?

Jesus says CUT THAT OUT! Stop working and trust in Him, who justifies the ungodly.

You don’t have to hide your filth, you don’t have to hide your scars, you don’t have to hide your shame –  because He justifies the ungodly.

Grace is a call to come out of hiding, because God, not us, makes us right and changes our heart.

How does the verse end though? It says if you don’t work, and trust in Him who justifies the ungodly, then your faith is counted as righteousness.

The minute you trust in Jesus your standing becomes His standing.

You no longer represent yourself but Jesus represents you.

Your faith is “counted” as righteousness. It isn’t earned. It’s counted.

When you trust in Jesus, God then looks at you the same way He looks at Jesus. If you are in Jesus He looks at you (even when you fall and mess up) and says “pure, spotless, blameless, perfect, holy, my son, my daughter, you’re free!”

That’s what changes a heart.

That’s what stirs us to worship.

That’s what changes someone’s life.

You don’t have to keep trying. You don’t have to hide that you’re ungodly. You just have to trust in the one who exchanged Himself for you at the cross.

He took your shame.

He took your sin.

He took your filth so that God could be both just and justifier of those who put their trust in Jesus.

He doesn’t just let you “off the hook” but rather He put Jesus on the hook for you.

Stop working to do something that Jesus has already done. It is finished. If you trust Him, you’re faith is counted as righteousness.

And just like a wound, that when the bandage is taken off and can receive sunlight and air, it actually starts to heal.

When we stop hiding —  we can start healing.


“I have heard that men who hate the cross bring it against God that He saves wicked men and receives to Himself the vilest of the vile. This Scripture actually accepts the charge, even more it plainly states it!

By the mouth of His servant Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, He takes to Himself the title of “Him that justifies the ungodly.”

He makes just those who are unjust, forgives those who deserve to be punished, and favors those who deserve no favor.

You thought … that God’s grace was for the pure and holy who are free from sin? It has fallen into your mind that, if you were excellent, then God would reward you; and you have thought that because you are not worthy, therefore there could be no way of your enjoying His favor.

You must be somewhat surprised to read a text like this: “Him that justifies the ungodly. ”

I never cease to wonder at it.” C.H. Spurgeon


Jefferson Bethke just flat-out loves Jesus in an authentic, down-to-earth, unpretentious way. He’s  married to Alyssa. He likes writing &  his channel is one that creatively connects. And he owns a candle company, called Claro Candles, that brings light to social injustice

In Jesus > Religion, Bethke highlights the difference between teeth gritting and grace, law and love, performance and peace, despair and hope. With refreshing candor he delves into the motivation behind his message, beginning with the unvarnished tale of his own plunge from the pinnacle of a works-based, fake-smile existence that sapped his strength and led him down a path of destructive behaviour. We made  Jesus > Religion a family devotional read, that we read together as a family, and let the startling reality of Jesus justifying us messy, busted-up people really sink in and surprise us into ridiculous joy and hope.Know some tweens/teens/family or anyone just desperate for some real soul relief?  Jesus>Religion is an absolute five star read. 


Monday, July 21st, 2014 | Guest posts | Visit Post


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Aerial photographs from around the world.  This life is a gift.

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Dutch physicist has created an extraordinary collection of artwork using coloured X-rays - must see

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He saved a man’s life – but couldn’t save his own. Then this happened. And what his dad said… 

and yes, yes, yes — the whole earth is full of His glory …

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 what happens when people care for a stranger in Lowe’s 

“I thank the guys and they look at me and say, ‘It was our honor…’” – beautiful

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when you just want to walk on clouds 

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…  changing the way we look at things.

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what happens when a dad who has lost his little girl appeals for someone to photoshop away the tubes

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what happens when you’re an Olympic Gold medalist — and you become a paraplegic

“This is my new life. I have no other choice.”

Inspiring – gather the family for this one.

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Long-Lost Photos Show What Hasn’t Changed About Motherhood In 50 Years


can’t stop thinking about what Ginny Sheller said:

Be still. There are no winners in the race to get it all done.

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25 really brilliant inventions

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Aging with grace: Three sisters. 98, 96, and 101 years old.  And what they attribute their long life to 

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one kid. one dog. one unforgettable story. 

so…. how determined are you to win your race?
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Blended : one baby, one family, one adoption — the beauty of blended


Post of the Week from these parts here — yes. 

Why You Really Need to Be Done with Living Safe

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Napping? Can dramatically increase learning, memory, awareness and more –

This! How you can make this weekend like this? 

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Let your heart rest: you’re already enough…

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Stranger knocks on door and does the unheard of for a  mother of 4 

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How to Bloom right where you are 


What’s on the stack here at the farm:

The Momentary MarriageMarriage… is mainly about displaying the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church.

It is a momentary gift. It may last a lifetime, or it may be snatched away on the honeymoon. Either way, it is short.
It may have many bright days, or it may be covered with clouds. If we make secondary things primary, we will be embittered at the sorrows we must face. But if we set our face to make of marriage mainly what God designed it to be, no sorrows and no calamities can stand in our way. Every one of them will be, not an obstacle to success, but a way to succeed.
The beauty of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church shines brightest when nothing but Christ can sustain it.

Gift from the Sea: an annual summer read for me, words of such depth and clarity and wisdom.

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith.
Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.” 


Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future

Girl at the end of the world:  is a barn-burning fast read.

Elizabeth Esther ignites the pages from the first chapter and the book burns with honest revelation and bold transparency right till the last page. A story of one woman’s life growing up in a religious cult — and her walk toward healing and forgiveness and God. A brave spiritual memoir. 

Collected Poems:

Jane Kenyon:  The lyricism of these poems sways the loveliest through these summer evening:
“To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.” 

… what is happening to all your broken places.
Ellie Holcomb is a favourite on repeat here at the farm. Perfect Saturday laundry music.

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Must watch. Make today the difference between existing and living.

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At the end of week… just this:

In the midst of all the setbacks — God is setting everything up for the comeback of your joy. 

That’s all for this weekend, friends. 

Go slow. Be God-struck. Grant grace. Live Truth.

Give Thanks. Love well. Re - joy, re- joy, ‘re- joys’ again

Share Whatever Is Good. 

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 | Link Wanderings | Visit Post


Friday, July 18th, 2014 | Guest posts | Visit Post


Friday, July 11th, 2014 | Guest posts | Visit Post

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