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  • How to Really Survive a Heart Attack

    On Thursday, May 24 th, 2012
    Mama calls me to tell me that her mama’s had a heart attack. I hold the receiver close. Lower myself into a chair. Granny of the tea biscuits and the white light netted up in her white hair — she’s hardly standing at the side of her bed when her heart gets blocked and bits of her on the inside explode. On the other end of the line, Mama unwinds the day like a roll of easel paper and it’s all there in full color: The emergency room and monitors, the labored breathing, the low blood pressure. Granny used to pat the dough before she’d cut out a perfect circle with a cup. When you’re 91 and an artery clogs, does it feel like shards of the heart are shattering your lung and grace might come full circle? “Is she alone?” I ask Mama. Granny lives seven hours away in a room with a stack of Reader’s Digests. No, Mama says, my aunt who lives across town is there — no, she is not alone. There are a thousand ways to experience a heart attack. In a thousand ways we don’t stand alone. “You okay, Mama?” “Oh…” she murmurs. “I’ve been steeping myself all afternoon in Scripture and Truth. Leaning on the sovereignty of God, listening to John Piper sermons, studying Romans.“ I have known this. I don’t stand alone. John Piper, his books all stand on my shelf. I know and love his pulse, for Jesus and the Cross
  • 3 Things to Hold on to When Life Hurts {Cherry Blossoms in Rain}

    On Wednesday, April 25 th, 2012
    S he learned it haltingly in early spring, when the rain fell. When the edge of Japan washed away. When the sky slid down all the window panes. And a Sunday in spring, when a tornado sky rips up the earth, leaving this fury of questions, she plays on, the same song. Now surer, steadier. I stand at the windowsill. It still rains. The tomatoes plants try to stand in west winds, strong and straight. It’s true of all the windowed eyes we look into: Everyone carries their own inner rain. Her notes, they start low, an accepting slow, a bass. Then her fingers, then, they reach high, valleys calling to heights. There’s an ache, a haunting echo, and the notes feel like the far oriental east, as far as He has removed all that inflicts and breaks ties and sins. She plays the notes like a winging, like a long leaving, like standing at the edge of what once was and witnessing the losing of something pure and prayed for. It is like Asia weeping, like a sky crying. Apple trees blossom brave in the orchard, white clouds come down in the storm. “This one,” I turn to her at the piano, “ — it always makes me hurt just a bit, Hope.” Is it the the beauty of the song? The exquisite simplicity and delicate perfection of every river of notes, of every soaring? Or is it the longing of it, the loss and lostness of it? This
  • How to Love Your Enemies?

    On Wednesday, April 18 th, 2012
    N ot all enemies carry arrows. All my life I had liked to think it was only David who had his enemies. Is it easier to say we don’t have any enemies — so we don’t have to figure out how to really love them? And how to forgive enemies from the heart? But who hasn’t been cheated on, talked down, lied about, pierced right through and left heart-broken on some beaten-down back road? There are a thousand ways to bleed, to nurse wounds and bitterness, and no one knows. I have twisted limbs on my family tree, but no one burnt the fig tree down. Just this one little girl burned with shameful memories, dirtiness right under her skin, and how to get clean? I remember asking my mama why some relatives are called grands. How many years have I have stood in sanctuaries and murmured that one line of the Apostles Creed? “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” Have I really believed? Do all the creed-keepers believe only in the forgiveness of their sins alone? Or do they, the Christ-bearers, really believe in the forgiveness of sins and sinners? In a culture of wholesale forgiveness? Weren’t we once the enemies? Aren’t our enemies our kin? Don’t we have to let them into grace? My dad loved another woman and another woman belittled my mama while she slept in her bedroom and scrubbed mama’s memories out of her own house and I’ve done my own spiteful share of
  • When You’re Feeling Unseen & Unappreciated {Words for Lent}

    On Wednesday, March 21 st, 2012
    It’s hard to know what that is — when it’s a spotlight that heats up a prophet’s fervor.   When ardency kindles with a microphone and holiness is this blazing performance for audience and applause.   But what is that, that zealous ember in the dark, when a woman wipes the drool from her father’s chin and carries him down the hall to the toilet, when a mother lays down bits of her singular life to wash the bowls and the underwear of the teenager calling her a whore and a missionary bends in a jungle, a brothel, a slum and nobody applauds?   Are sacrifices the secret, sacred rites that are gifts offered with no thought of return on investment, given in the dark when the only light is His and your one flaming heart?   Who’s defining the terms when it’s an honor to be awarded and a sacrifice to be called by God?   I do confess to wondering this – if  the call isn’t so much about carrying your Cross across a lit stage but down the Via Dolorosa and if the truth of it is that the word altar comes from the Latin ‘altus’ meaning high — because the realest altars burn where only Heaven sees. :: :: :: :: button code here Every Wednesday, we Walk with Him, posting a spiritual practice that draws us nearer to His heart.To read the entire series of spiritual practices Next week, as we walk with Him towards Easter, might
  • The Secret to Fasting in a Lent that is Failing

    On Wednesday, February 29 th, 2012
    Dust cloth in hand, that is what I’m thinking Lent’s all about. Don’t I desperately want to be changed when Easter morning dawns? For something different to have dawned in me. I wash things down. I mean, it’s easier to blithely dust, spring clean, do some happy spring decorating than to think about Lent. I get that. I’d like that. But it’s not what I want. I want to have grown into someone else by Easter morning. I set the Easter Tree back into place. I can see it on the ends of the Easter Tree branches, remnants of buds on the tips of the dogwood branches. That is the point: “to grow up in every way into him who is the head.” Growth. How often is there change without growing pains? Maybe that is what the gnawing struggle of a Lent fast is all about — the growing pains of grace. A week of Lent and that’s what I’ve got — how weak I am. All week, struggling with the fast. Stacking a few plates too loudly last night, snapping some frail heart bones with this tongue of mine, tongue tail of my heart. A messy discussion that was toned too angsty. A word spoken too fast, harsh, and that look in the eyes of a teenager. A door slammed hard and my heart the hard thing. Raising your own flesh and blood can be this exercise in seeing how dirty your flesh is and how dire you need
  • Free Easter Devotional Book to Make a Jesus Easter Tree

    On Wednesday, February 22 nd, 2012
    I can’t seem to follow through in giving up for Lent. Which makes me want to just give up Lent. Which makes me question Who I am following. Which may precisely be the point of Lent. Last week, I’m standing on a table, snapping the shutter on a bouquet of roses, when by brother calls. Levi picks it up, his eyes twinkling, stars risen early. I can only hope Levi doesn’t mention he’s answering because his Mama’s standing smack dab center in the middle of the table, her all happy over a bunch of God glory found in flowers. “Hello? … Oh, hi Uncle John.” I smile. Levi’s a miniature mirror image of my brother, smattering of freckles bridging across the nose and the thirty years that span between them. “What am I doing? But you know already –talking to you.” I can imagine the chuckling on the other end of the line. I set the camera aside, hop off the table. Levi mouths it large, one hand over the receiver.”ARE YOU AVAILABLE, MOM?” Oh, but wouldn’t I stop being Mom if I stopped being available? Levi grins and hands over my brother. “Hey. So tell me. Lent. Fill me in, sister.” Our faith community doesn’t practice Lent. My brother doesn’t do Google. When he’s got a question, he calls me on his cell. If need be, he waits for me to Google. My brother’s a welder. I can hear the rumble of the diesel engine of his pick-up. He
  • What Is The Best Gift to Give to A Man ? {Married Love & The Principle of Three Feet}

    On Wednesday, February 01 st, 2012
    That’s what your mama had said —  that it was the last day of January in the middle of a Canadian snowstorm. And all the farmers up and down the gravel roads had milked their cows in the morning and headed to the city’s Indoor Farm Show. And she had you, her ninth born, alone and late into that howling storm. Today you turn 39. What do you give a man who doesn’t have everything — but has given everything? “The highest act of love is the giving of the best gift….” That is what John Piper said. But what do you give a man who’s laid down his life and took out the garbage and fed the dog and changed the diapers on how many kids and worked 18 hour days for years — and still winks when he comes in the back door and sees you? What do you wrap up for a man who’s played how many games of Dutch Blitz with kids on Sunday afternoons and tied a few thousands pairs of shoes over the years and carried more than a baby or two on the hip, on the shoulder, right next to his chest, long into the teething night? Who comes to you late and reaches out his hand under the quilts and finds your bare wrist and traces round you with his fingertips and this is enough… just the soundless giving. I need to know: What do you give a man who knows by
  • The 1 Habit More Important than Quiet Time? {Memorize the Mount: Free Sermon on the Mount Memory Booklet}

    On Wednesday, January 25 th, 2012
    Who memorizes God in the age of Google? For a week, longer, I wake with these fears choking hard. Fears pushing me into the pit. And it comes while I struggle to get out of bed, comes early as the light pries back the dark, words we’ve been committing to heart — and I murmur them, hold onto them like a lifeline tossed: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the… “ And I smooth out the bedsheets and everything calms, His Word stilling my storm… That is what we are: Blessed. Blessed. Blessed. I’m learning by heart the heart of God and this is what calms my heart. I run my hand down the coverlet and there are no wrinkles left. The old Beatitudes print that I found at the back of a thrift store, it hangs on the wall in the hall. The frame’s all chipped, but the glass reflects all this light. I’ve been writing the Sermon on the Mount verses on the chalkboard by the farmtable. The whole tribe says it together loud and messy before we leave the table and after we stack the  pile of licked clean plates. We make Memorize the Mount booklets — Matthew 5-6 & 7 — only 2-3 verses a week, — 2 0r 3 truth kernels at a time –  and we carry them around in our pockets. Because the thing is: Will I meditate on His Word or my worries?
  • The 4 Minute Marriage Habit: How to make 2012 the year you fall madly in love all over again

    On Wednesday, January 11 th, 2012
    He lays his hand on my shoulder. Water drips from strands tousled and a rivulet runs down the small of my back. “I have no idea what to wear.” I’m paying him no mind, standing before the closet with my towel, mumbling words. Hangers clatter. “What you’re wearing is rather pretty.” His stubble finds the curve of my neck. “No…” I laugh, embarrassed, try to squirm out of those arms wrapped around, reach for a dress at the back of the closet, stretch far away. “Don’t be silly…. I just need something simple….” I can feel him still, arms around me, tensed, steady. I know. I know what words will now come. He says them slow, low, and they run down my spine… “When I say that you’re beautiful…” His hands on my shoulder, he turns me, and I can’t look, too ashamed. “You said you’d hear me.” “I know…  When I asked you how I could be a better wife — that’s what you said.”  Deep breath, open heart, open eyes. I look into his. “You said that…” I’m wincing… ” When you say I’m beautiful…. I’m supposed to believe it. Just receive your love.” Why is receiving his love always the hardest? We lean and our foreheads touch, breath mingling. We’ve only found this place through a trail of years. Love falls softly; it cannot be forced. I have tried.  That forcing just about undid us. Funny, how love, this thing muscular and the only eternal, this bridge between our
  • When You Desperately Want God to Hear Your Prayers

    On Wednesday, November 02 nd, 2011
    When we buy her two pygmy goats for her birthday, who knew how big faith could get? We bring them home in June in a mini-van with no air-conditioning. Two miniature goats neighing back and forth —  on the laps of two boys making jokes about something warm running down their legs. “We do need to name them,” the birthday girl announces. She strokes one goat’s speckled stretch of neck, flakes of whiteness falling down a throat of silky night…. “Nanny is the whiter one.” She grips Nanny’s inverted skunk neck, ridge of black running down her spine. “And you… “ she turns to the smaller goat in Joshua’s lap, “You are Ninny —- the darker one.” Ninny — shadow of Nanny… We aren’t the owners of 2 pygmy goats for 24 hours when Shalom flies in the backdoor, flings herself on the couch. The kitchen sink’s a mama’s watchtower and I dry off my hands. “Shalom? You okay.” I dry off my hands. “Mama,” she sits up on, brushes her mess of curls from her face. “Mama –“ her chin’s quivering “—do you think goats make good dinners for coyotes?” My eyebrows arch. Her dam breaks. “Because Nanny’s gone, Mama — Nanny ran away.” She’s a heap again on the couch, shoulders shuddering. Kai throws open the back door, “Shalom?” He says her name like Shome, all the letters running together, the way you can make peace out of whatever you run into. “Shome? Caleb’s looked all through the
  • when it’s all pressing in : the fluid principle

    On Wednesday, October 19 th, 2011
    I‘m standing at the counter, day seeping in without knocking, jotting down a list of the day’s tasks, the work of a week, in my journal, and it’s just a tad overwhelming. I’m trying to remember just to breathe… And then I am fifteen again. That summer I gripped the handlebars of a Honda Goldwing, weave around margarine tubs set up as pylons in the backyard. How to weave through life’s obstacles? It was this threading through four white Gay-lea markers, loop around the Manitoba Maple. Slip through another four tubs, circle a knot of slender poplars. Begin again on the far side, under the lilacs. Come the end of the day, my Dad would lean up against the doorway of the shop, cap peak pulled low, just watching, nodding now and then. Mama would look up from scrubbing potatoes, her face framed by the kitchen window lace valance. And I’d wobble a motorcycle through an obstacle course. We all knew that, for me, climbing up on that seat, gripping those handle bars, wasn’t about speed or finesse. It was about fear. About swimming through murky cold fear. And surfacing to breathe. Fear of plunging, fear of falling, fear of pain, fear of handling a revving engine and a mass of steel, fear of accelerating, the open road and all the unknown. Dad was doggedly brave like that. He didn’t like us saying there was something we couldn’t do: weld, drive a motorcycle, pick up a phone, back up a
  • The Very Best Place to Really Hope

    On Wednesday, September 28 th, 2011
    The boys paddle through the waters, one strong stroke at a time, and I watch their wake. The way they keep moving ahead, just keep moving ahead. It could be this way: that I cease seeking to escape pilgrim life, that I embrace the journey, that I not want any different road for my life than the road He winnows. It’s when they turn the far side of the island, they find it. Te unexpected, the hoped for — the heron. They wait. And keep moving ahead. Both are possible. There are all the things I think I hope for. That I relentlessly hope are around each turn. And yet — If I only hope when things look hopeful, isn’t my hope cliche, posturing? I’m only truly hoping when all is hopeless — otherwise it isn’t hope. And then —   It’s precisely in the dark of the hopeless –  that hope can unfold into it’s full, strong wing. The heron, it flies — these  splashes of light across waters we can’t see through…. :: :: :: :: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 button code Every Wednesday, we Walk with Him, posting a spiritual practice that draws us nearer to His heart. To read the entire series of spiritual practices The next two weeks… might we explore: The Practice of Hope… What does it look like to believe? How do you practice your faith day to day? How
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