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A Holy Experience

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A photographic celebration of new life: day by day.

Beautiful.

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What she does? And her smile? No. Words.

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Zoey and Jasper.

More than just beautiful faces. This story is amazing.

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The artist? The medium? You aren’t going to believe this

 

Gather the family? A must see.

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Who would have  thought this hope out of the Boston Marathon?  1 year later

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How one extraordinary educator works first to build an emotional bond with her students

Smiling through tears at this dream come true.

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Something fun with the kids?

Can you see him? Search for this dog in each these photos!

This mama? This story? Only tears.

“What we do have is each other. And we have love. And we have prayer. And we have friends. And family.

God did not do this.”

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Basking in the beauty of the short-lived cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.

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This week (in)courage shared the world premier of a beautiful new (in)RL music video! ”We Can Do Something Extraordinary” was written for the (in)courage community by the amazing Christa Wells & Nicole Witt in celebration of what we can accomplish in Christ when we do it together

Brave beating hearts – we can do something EXTRAordinary.

If you haven’t yet registered for (in)RL – the virtual girl’s weekend that comes to you, wherever you are in the world – you can do that here for free!

When you register you’ll receive a brand new (in)RL eBook and complete access to all of the videos, including a Friday AND Saturday keynote! This year we’re talking about the power of sharing our stories – and we’d just love to have you join us on April 25th & 26th.

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Yes! Everything you need to host a Mother’s Day Tea –

including the perfect read, recipes, and free printables too!

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Hank and the Milwaukee Brewers? Don’t miss this.

A story of hope and faith. And rescue.

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Do not disdain the small : the small adds up to glory…

God’s Not Dead

what we watched this weekend — that opened up a worthwhile conversation as a family:
releasing now in Canada and the UK

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What happens between the pages of a book and an open heart

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Printable for the weekend

Impossible to witness the wonder of this, this weekend, and not choke up… On repeat here

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Post of the Week from here …

When You’re Struggling & Holy Week is Just Hard

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[- excerpted from  One Thousand Gifts]

 

That’s all for this weekend, friends. Sunday Morning is Coming!

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, April 19th, 2014 | Link Wanderings | Visit Post

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Our Pastor calls to ask if I’d do one of a few dramatic monologues for Good Friday service— a moment through the eyes of the mother of Jesus? So I write down words… and imagine the mother of our Lord… fingering the bloody tunic of her Son.

Son…. Son of God… Son of mine

God.

Why?

From the beginning I have watched and I have listened and I have pondered all these things quiet in my heart — but now I have to ask:

why?

Why didn’t You come down from that Cross in all Your power and Glory?

Why didn’t You blind the chief priests with Your divine radiance?

Why didn’t You still all their blasphemous tongues with the army of the heavenly host, with Your burning holiness, with Your flaming sword?

Isn’t that who You really are?

Oh Son — why?

I know… I know.

Only Your blood flow can extinguish the flames of hell.

There was no other way.

How could You let a lost world burn?

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You took fire so we could walk free.

You took violence so we could be victors.

You took hell so we could be healed.

Sin hurt You far deeper than the spikes.

And You let the horrors of satan take a swipe at You so that all horrific sin could be wiped clean.

And You knew it all along.

You were conceived into skin for the Cross — the cave of that manger beginning glimpsing the cave of Your Messiah, martyred endings.

You who had no beginning, You were born for this, for the blood, that we might be reborn to life.

Oh Son….

I know… how could You have been our Saviour if You hadn’t known suffering?

How could we have worshiped You if You weren’t wounded?

How could we bow to You if You were not bruised?

We could only believe in You because You have lived in us — in our mangled world, in our aching pain, in all our hurting humanity.

You alone are the God for us — because You alone are the God who has been one of us.

You felt what we feel, You touched the death that we know, You came to us as Immanuel: God with us.

I remember when Joseph first told me… that the angel had told him that You would be called Immanuel… God with us.

I started weaving your robe right then.

The loom work was soothing, the shuttle slipping back and forth, like rocking, a lullaby. And I dreamed of You and holding You and how someday You would wear this cloth…. this tunic without seams.

It’s tradition, what all Jewish mothers give to their sons when they leave home: a seamless robe.

A one-piece robe.

And I began Your one-piece before I even beheld You and I wove late through the nights, under that circle of moon and I thought of You who has no beginning and no end, You from which all things are from and through and to… and I gave you the robe and I watched You walk this sod and I was there.

I was there at Calvary and I stood near that Cross with my sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas and with Mary Magdalene and I saw you heave breathe.

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And I saw the blood trickling down from the iron pierced holes in your feet and I saw the soldiers take Your clothes… this one-piece robe… and I hardly breathed… and I heard them say, “Let us not tear it.”

And when they already had tore you right through…

“This all happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”

And I heard you say, your voice gurgling blood, “Dear Woman… here is your son.”

And I went home with John, my mind thinking of you torn and your one-piece robe still whole…

How You let your side be ripped open that our lives need never be split into sacred and secular.

How you were slashed that our lives could be seamless — all holy.

That the veil in the temple rents in two because of You, and there is no longer a divide between the common and the hallowed and the whole earth is full of your glory and You are the continuous, unending, divine thread that weaves through all of the world, holding all together… even when you, Son, are rent apart.

And hanging naked and blood smeared and dirt defiled, You nodded slow and You said yes — You gave us your one-piece robe of seamless holiness and You clothed us, the filthy ones, in all your white righteousness.

Your blood wasn’t enough.

Your buying us back wasn’t enough.

Your being our brother wasn’t enough.

Nothing short of dressing us beautifully and calling us Beloved would be enough.

O Son

That I’d take up this cloth that You give me and be who You name me — Beloved.

That there’s no more being torn in a million directions — that no matter what pulls, I have a one-piece life life in You:  One direction, One purpose, One audience, One Love, One Joy — a one-piece life — all holy, all meaningful, all offered to You.

That I’d wear a One-Piece life and see Your face in a thousand faces, in a thousand humble and unseen places, and all my life would be all with You. And the moon will shine round and the threads of all my moments will shine with Your glory. And this one-piece life  — that it’d be all be for the One and True God alone…

I swaddled You in the beginning…

And now You hold me and robe me in You.

 

 

Friday, April 18th, 2014 | Uncategorized | Visit Post

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Shauna Niequist is a soul sister, a kindred spirit, a writer, a mama–and she’s a table girl, someone who has seen the goodness of God over and over in the faces of the people she gathers around her table. Bread & Wine is a love letter to life around the table, with recipes that take you by the hand and urge you gently into your own kitchen—knife, onion, oil, pan.

by Shauna Niequist

I love the table.

Love the gathering, love what God does when we look one another full in the face, when we listen to the whole story, not just the textable sound byte, when we let the candles burn down and the truth spill out over hours.

And that’s why I learned to cook, because I believe so deeply in what happens around a table.

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For all my hours in the kitchen, though, I didn’t bake until very recently, until something drew me to breadbaking.

And bread baking drew me to consider the sacraments…

The sacraments are tangible ways to represent intangible ideas: The idea of a Savior, of a sacrifice, of body and blood so many centuries ago, fills our senses and invades our present when our fingers break bread and our mouths fill with wine.

We don’t experience this connection, this remembering, this intimate memory and celebration of Christ, only at the altar. We experience it, or at least we could, every time the bread and wine are present — essentially, every time we are fed.

During that last meal, that last gathering of dear friends and disciples, Jesus was inviting us to gather around a table and remember, in church buildings and outside of them, during the sacrament of Communion and outside of it.

Body of Christ, broken for you. Blood of Christ, shed for you. “Every time you eat the bread and drink the wine,” Jesus says, “remember me.” Communion is connection, remembrance.

My friend Shane says the genius of Communion, of bread and wine, is that bread is the food of the poor and wine the drink of the privileged, and that every time we see those two together, we are reminded of what we share instead of what divides us.

In our tradition, we take Communion as a part of the church service every month or so. We pass a plate of bread, and another with tiny cups of wine — juice, actually. The taste of grape juice always reminds me of church, because until I had children, that was the only time I ever encountered it.

We also celebrate Communion in less formal places — at a camp, or on a retreat. It isn’t terribly uncommon to take Communion together in a makeshift way, in a home or a backyard or on a beach, one person reading the Scripture, another passing the bread and wine around a circle of friends, a small group, or a team that serves together.

I believe that Jesus asked for us to remember Him during the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine every time, every meal, every day—no matter where we are, who we are, what we’ve done.

If we only practice remembrance every time we take Communion at church, we miss three opportunities a day to remember. What a travesty!

Eugene Peterson says that “to eyes that see, every bush is a burning bush.” Yes, that, exactly.

To those of us who believe that all of life is sacred, every crumb of bread and sip of wine is a Eucharist, a remembrance, a call to awareness of holiness right where we are.

I believe this bread and wine is to be torn and handled, gulped. I believe that we can practice the sacrament of Communion anywhere at all, that a forest clearing can become a church and any one of us like a priest as we bless the bread and the wine.

I want all of the holiness of the Eucharist to spill out beyond the church walls, out of the hands of priests and into the regular streets and sidewalks, into the hands of regular, grubby people like you and me, onto our tables, in our kitchens and dining rooms and backyards.

Holiness abounds, should we choose to look for it.

The whisper and drumbeat of God’s Spirit are all around us, should we choose to listen for them.

The building blocks of the most common meal — the bread and the wine — are reminders to us: “He’s here! God is here, and He is good.”

Every time we eat, every time we gather, every time the table is filled: He’s here. He’s here, and He is good.

 

 

 

Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet.

She lives outside Chicago with her husband, Aaron, and their sons, Henry and Mac. Shauna writes about family, friendship, faith, and life around the table.

She offers a veritable feast, a love letter to life around the table with recipes, with the rich & filling wisdom on the powerful pages of  Bread & Wine.

Thursday, April 17th, 2014 | Guest posts | Visit Post

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 [Scroll down for the three posts shared here today?]
Dad always did that after the meat and potatoes, after the plates were cleared and stacked.

He’d ask for a toothpick.

Him in his plaid flannel shirt and Levi’s, looking for a bit of a tree to right everything again.

That’s what he’d do before he left the table: He’d snap the wood between his fingers.

He’d snap the brittle wood right between his fingers.

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And he’d say that to us women.

To us at the sink when he passed through the kitchen, when he went looking for his work boots again, for his sun-frayed hat and his honest earthy work.

He’d say, “A woman can be a dry and brittle thing, ready to snap.” Then he’d wink and dodge his way out of the kitchen, dishtowel snapping loud in his direction.

I have no idea why it took me twenty years to know it:

The days that are dry and brittle, ready to snap — these days are perfect kindling for a burning bush.

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The days after Psalm Sunday, we eat figs.

Because the day after Palm Sunday, Jesus, hungry for fruit, he sees a fig tree and

He went to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only.

And He said to it, “May no fruit every come from you again!”

And the fig tree withered at once” (Matthew 21:18).

The first act after the fall, it’s the first Adam come looking for fig leaves.

The last miracle before being nailed to the Tree, it’s the Second Adam, Jesus, come looking for figs.

Ask Adam: The authentic Christian life has got to be more than leafage.

Faith has to have fruit.

It’s the fig-bearers who live a faith that bears fruit. And it’s the leaf-wearers who just live this front that wears thin.

Ask me.

I can’t even remember the last time we’ve sung that hymn in the pews:

For thou art our salvation, Lord,

our refuge and our great reward;

without thy grace we waste away

like flowers that wither and decay

Forget the fig tree withering.

Whole family trees wither away without a grace that produces fruit.

Without thy grace we waste away.

When the boys eye that plate on the counter, when they ask if they can have more figs, I say yes.

I say yes.

And Christ? He inspects our lives for more than intentions; He intends for intimacy.

He searches the limbs not for leaves — not leaving for conferences or for meetings or for front seats. He looks along the the leaves for the love.

For the seed that swells with the Spirit, the faith that unfurls, the flower that unfolds into fruit. Can belief ever be barren? Doesn’t belief always mean living in the Beloved? Living like the Beloved?

Shalom breaks her fig open and I can see all the seeds, all this possibility.

“They’re so sweet.” She eats her’s slow.

I clear the counter.

What if you’re the one feeling dry and brittle?

What if all you feel like you ever bear is….  frustrated kids and edgy words and a whole string of “grin and bear it days”?

What if you’re the one who feels like you’re withering right up?

I move the plate of figs off the table and it’s there.

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The silhouette of the the Bent Beloved, all tenderness.

Him leaving the withered fig tree to lay down on the worn Tree so all the weary can revive.

And me, this woman too often like Aaron’s rod, dry and brittle, who just has to lay everything about before the Lord —

I lay out a bowl of almonds too.

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Because Aaron’s dry -as-death rod,  that rod budded and blossomed, white almond flowers unfurling this impossible faith by grace.

These brittle, dry days —  they can be kindle for burning bushes and God can come upon the dry bones and they can bud and blossom. And we can eat almonds and taste miraculous fruit from limbs just surrendered.

Though the fig tree doesn’t blossom nor fruit be on the vine, yet I will rejoice– and there is the reviving. He can make the dry bones dance.

After Palm Sunday and before Good Friday, that’s what we eat —  the almonds and the figs and the fruit, because by Grace, God can get a fig out of even this dry stick. Levi sets out the third bowl.

A small dish of toothpicks. Dry,  like dead trees.

“It’s what we’ll do when we repent.” He tells my Mama when she stops in. He shows her, holding up this grapevine wreath, this wood withered and wound.

“These wreaths that we made from the vines back in the wood? Every time we need to repent this Holy Week,” he reaches for the bowl… ” — we’ll slip in one of these sticks.”

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“Yes,” she nods.

“Yes, exactly.”

I’m fingering the sharp edge of one brittle point.

And I go first.

I slip in a toothpick thorn, repenting of fruit that isn’t and believing in Him who is, and it’s there in these hands, this snapped, withered wood that will bear the impossible life and right everything again.

This hope encircling like a crown…

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3 Bowls & a Crown of Thorns: Holy Week Activity

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Three Bowls & a Crown of Thorns : 

Items Needed:

1. Figs in a bowl
2. Almonds in a bowl
3. Toothpicks, tea or coffee stained in a bowl
4. a grapevine wreath, crowned-sized

Set the Three Bowls (figs, almonds, toothpicks) & a Crown of Thorns on a table during Holy Week.

1. Read of Jesus’ last miracle before His death: The Withering of the Fig Tree.

Share how Christ is looking for fruit in our lives of faith. And the first fruit is to believe that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, that without Him, there is no fruit. Have a time of personal and family reflection: What are the fruits of the Spirit? How does my life bear each of the fruits of the Spirit?

2. Read the story of Aaron’s dry as death rod budding and blossoming and bearing fruit.

Give glory to God for doing miraculous work in your life, to bear unlikely faith, by His grace alone! Share God-glorifying stories of unexpected fruit!

3. Leave out the bowl of figs and almonds to eat throughout Holy Week

A literal reminder of what Christ seeks and how He surprisingly saves.

4. Set out the bowl of thorns {toothpicks stained} and the Thorn

Throughout Holy Week, as issues arise that beg repenting, slip a toothpick thorn into the grapevine wreath — and thank Him for His painful grace that He offers to bear fruit in our lives…

Without thy grace, we waste and wither away.

Three posts are shared here today for Holy Week: Day 3
Post 1: When You’re Feeling Spiritually Dry during Holy Week [Holy Week: Day 3]
Post 2: [How to Serve a Christian Passover] When Your Holy Week is Far from Perfect & You Just Need a Perfect Lamb 
Post 3: When You Need a Garden Getaway in the Middle of Holy Week: Make A Garden Getaway

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 | Easter, Uncategorized | Visit Post

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Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 | Easter | Visit Post

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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 | Uncategorized | Visit Post

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Monday, April 14th, 2014 | Uncategorized | Visit Post

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Saturday, April 12th, 2014 | Link Wanderings | Visit Post

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Friday, April 11th, 2014 | Uncategorized | Visit Post

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Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 | Book of John, Jesus Project, Love, Memorization | Visit Post

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