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  • 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?
  • When You Really Want To Wear New Habits… Free Daily Planner {Printable}

    On Wednesday, December 28 th, 2011
    When we read this book , there’s this character that puts on her “habit.” A little hand here pats my shoulder and asks, “What’s a habit?” The amaryllis on the sill, it’s swelling in hope. And I tell Shalom this: a habit is something that is worn. She flickers recognition, nods, turns back to the page. She waits for me to read the next line. I’m sort of struck: A habit is what we wear. A habit is the way we wear our days. Wear new habits and your life gets a makeover. Consistently do things at the same time everyday and find yourself a new person. I look down at my jeans and a threadbare knee. I have habits that desperately need changing. I lay out new threads: clip The Day’s Draft to the clipboard. And scratching down a plan for each day, The Day’s Draft, working on habits and consistency: there’s realizing this too: If it matters, you make the time.   If it doesn’t, you make excuses. Standing in an imperfect place is just the perfect place to begin, and everyday offers the hope of Day 1. His mercies are new every morning and this is a gift. Snow falls in the orchard. I carry a clipboard and try on new habits. I set the timer and do pomodoros for each of the tasks on the Day’s Draft. I wear new threads. And then, at the end of the day, to be done with the day because
  • 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
  • when it’s hard to still keep on hoping

    On Wednesday, September 21 st, 2011
    The earth’s cold under the finger nails. I dig holes with a wedge of steel and around fringes of the domed sky, the clouds scud gray. Dad had called first thing in the morning: if I had anything to do outside, today looked like the last day. Might be the last warm day to dig in bulbs, before autumn begins her blustery, muddy wrestle. I’d nodded. Yes, Dad. Bulbs, today, will do. And last clean up of the flowerbeds. Thank you for calling, thinking of me, Dad. I’d hardly hung up the receiver before it rang again, a friend, whose first words spoke of weather too: brooding storm bearing down. “What do I do when I just don’t know how to go on?” Her voice cracks, flash of pain forking across skies. I listen to expectations struck, her hopes snapped off in gale. “Just a day to be sad, I guess,” she finishes, beaten. “Today, I’m not up to trying to fix or solve any of it. Just grieving today.” And then the quiet rain of tears. Together, we let the lament come. Then I gather bulbs. Pull out the spade, and go dig holes, because I’m just dirt with no answers, only prayers. “Why do we have to dig so deep?” Son’s face reddens in the excavating. Little One digs her own hole alongside mine. “Well, Child, some things are meant to really be laid down.” “I’m going to drop mine in now.” Son’s holding his bulb poised, looking my
  • when you’re broken

    On Wednesday, August 24 th, 2011
    Christ comes to us in the only way any of us can recognize — with a body right broken. Who of us isn’t busted? On a Sunday, the pastor breaks the loaves, three of them, are broken right down the center. Lays them white faced on silver platters, then takes them in hand and turns to us the congregants — the farmers and grandmothers, the wives and the truck drivers — the beggars waiting to part lips and partake. “This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” What if all we can remember is what a mess we are? Young Christopher Eelman sits at the piano, his fingertips hardly brushing the ivories. The platters pass from hand to hand, Maika Nagel leaning across her 4 kids to hand the torn bread down to Beryl Martin… My mind forms the words that the piano notes weep. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. And there it is too — who I am. Needing one tall to quickly get into the kitchen this morning, to scrub up another ten potatoes for company coming and calling her name and hollering her name and glancing at the clock and just straight out screaming her name. The way I snapped at her when she dawdled to the sink. Time running out and her running water, splashing it about, ignoring dirty spuds at the bottom of the sink, and the way I fumed disgust. Sin had left a crimson
  • regardless of the temperature of your heart…

    On Wednesday, August 17 th, 2011
    …so slipping in here late, the internet blinking out on the farm since last weekend… and today all went still as the service provider replaced internet equipment out on the tower… and way out here in the country, we really try not to take that little internet signal for granted ~smile~ All is Grace… so just snippets of thoughts I’m thinking about today… The call to follow Christ always means a call to share the work of forgiving men their sins. Forgiveness is the Christlike suffering which it is the Christian’s duty to bear. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer … in The Cost of Discipleship from Corrie ten Boom in Tramp for the Lord ‘I t was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’ The solemn faces stared back at me,
  • figuring out how to forgive {your parents}

    On Wednesday, August 10 th, 2011
    When I carry our first babe home from the hospital, I carry him home alone. The Farmer can’t get off work. He works for my Dad. There were reasons why  – there was a crop of corn to get in the ground. I understood that. Understanding though didn’t mean that some of the sadness didn’t spill. I did keep brushing it back, all the way out to the car. And sometimes I remember a little girl waiting four pacing hours for the father to pick her up after school. The wild fear that rounded her eyes, like white moons of their own, in the dusk coming on. There were reasons why — there was more work in the barn. One more thing to do, and then another. I did try to understand. And when my husband-to-be asked to for that barely grown-up girl’s hand in marriage, the father had asked dubious, “Why would you want to do that?” This was hard to understand. So I rock that first baby boy for years and I’m the one crying and it only takes me another decade or two to soothe the years with the truth: Nurse resentment and you are are never released; forgive your parents for the past or the past forever holds you — the permanent child. I don’t do this well. And I’ve got to figure out how – how to honor the parent, because didn’t God promise that without that nothing else can go well? It’s only forgiveness
  • where love comes from

    On Wednesday, August 03 rd, 2011
    ‘Each wheat head is full this year —- large. Like that year when you were in France.” He pulls out a long, slender stalk — shows me the wheat kernels filled out right to the end. France? The wheat, out past the barn and to the north, it sways in mid-summer’s wind. Heads bowed, the fields sing like a hymn. We’ll roll in the combine today, let the streams of wheat run. Our wheat harvest begins and he remembers me telling him about wheat in France? Three years ago now, how I had stepped out of St. Sulpice, out of the dome, out onto the street, out of the strains of the organ pipes that stretched up to heights and streams of light. How I had walked up towards Jardin du Luxembourg in the twilight. How I had found it right there on the sidewalk —- a full, bowed sheaf of wheat, laying there up against a maple tree. I’d stopped. Had looked up and down an empty side street at suppertime in summertime. A bundle of wheat, gold and ripe and there in the middle of the city —- in the middle of Paris, in the shadow of a cathedral? Really? Some farmer had walked the streets of France’s metropolitan with heavy heads of wheat under his arm? Where had he come from and where was he going and why had he bent down and left this bouquet of wheat stalks on the sidewalk just down the street from
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