Saturday, April 28, 2007

Fragrance of Spring

a simple walk to the car this morning
where the dogwood blossoms
welcome us to a new world
she stopped and gasped
"It's so fresh outside!"
a long deep breath in
head up, arms out
toes curling on her new flip flops
as she leans back
and looks up at You
envisioning Your castle in the clouds
"Thank You, God for loving me so much
and for pretty days like this"
a simple prayer from a four year old
a huge moment for me as a mother
when we join the buds as they blossom
her first spontaneous praise to You
no prompting in sunday school
no leading questions from me
no devotional book at bedtime
just You
in the frangrance of spring

"From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise." Psalm 8:2

"From the colors of fall to the frangrance of spring, each unique in the song that it sings, all exclaiming . . . " song lyrics "Indescribable" by Chris Tomlin

Monday, April 23, 2007

livin' ok in the idk

school was an oxymoron
when the classroom was my playground
and the playground the only real challenge
color-coded folders and textbooks
check lists and due dates neatly crossed off
waking up at 4am to make flashcards
smiley faced stickers and pats on the back
and the thrill of 100% like two eyes
that stared back with perfection
with a flower in her hair
and vertical lines of A's like a zipper
whose teeth meet for that ideal smile
fact junky who chased the thrill
of mystery with extra research
toes tapping under desks and a raised hand
but even algebra slowly fell into monotony
because everything worked out
when the letters changed back into numbers
history was always a straight line with perfect dots
and four numbers standing at attention
we got to cut things open in science class
but the teacher had a name for everything
and the frog never knew what hit him
so I dove into literature
digging into Shakespeare's poetry
like dinosaur bones
always asking if there's more
until the teacher reached into the top desk drawer
and took some aspirin
but even stories had a formula
that is

until I met You

" Do you think you can explain the mystery of God? Do you think you can diagram God Almighty? God is far higher than you can imagine, far deeper than you can comprehend, Stretching farther than earth's horizons, far wider than the endless ocean." Job 11:7 (Msg)

"Within the mystery of Jesus, all that is foolish teaches all that is wise, all that is weak conquers all that is strong, and death itself is swallowed up by life. Here truth and mystery stand side by side and immerse hungry souls in their sea." Steven James, Story

"Mystery is good. It keeps people searching. And periodically--when they discover something they didn't understand before--they get to see a little more of what I am like. I like watching brilliant minds try to unravel the mystery . . but I also love watching people mesmerized by the simple treasures of life. Some of the most simple things often reveal my desire for splendor in your lives." Lanny Donoho, God's Blogs

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Won't You Be My Neighbor

I am from blonde pigtails and Mr. Rogers
and old hymns that sang me to sleep
but You didn't just live in my cookie cutter world
as I read, listen, and dive into
the stories of my students
I learn so much from the colors of their world
where Nikki Giovanni's phrase rings true
"Black Love is Black wealth"
where Carmen Tofolla's abuelo
passes down his wisdom like tools in his rusty toolbox
that she wasn't allowed to touch in "Mi Familia"
Langston Hughes speaks of rivers
and dreams of dancing in the sun
"to whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done."
hands raise that never would before
angry stories of getting followed in the mall
or women clutching purses and the
thunk, thunk of door locks as they walk down the street
Brent Staples says "Black men trade tales like this all the time"
we are studying multi-cultural America
but the room is the real textbook
each with their own unique story to tell
an FX television experiment chiseled at the walls
until they finally came together
"red and yellow, black and white
they are precious in Your sight"
Thank You for loving
and stepping into the stories
of all the children of the world
especially the ones in my classroom

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." Romans 15:7

"Day by day our lives are woven into a giant narrative, and every moment we become more and more the story of who we are. We are stories. And we only connect with other people when we know their stories. The more intimate we are, the more our stories intertwine . . . and each one of those stories, each one of those people, mattered so much to the Author of Life that he left heaven and began the dreadful trek to the cross . . . The storyteller entered the tale. The author stepped onto the page. The poet whose very words had written the cosmos became part of the text of this world." Steven James, Story

"The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood." John 1:14 (Msg)

Monday, April 16, 2007

As Fresh as Today's Headlines

I need You on a key chain
Holy Spirit in a wrapper to go
a Jesus they could stick in their pockets
so the principals wouldn't have to know
but Emily's backpack isn't big enough
to even hold the weight of her pain
Daniel's brilliant mind is spinning
like a rusty weather vane
Marie is on a boy safari
doing anything to catch his eye
all my mini-skirt, tank top girls
asking the boys "Who am I?"
Michael sits in the back
peeking through the blinds
sarcasm to play it safe
losing his faith in mankind
Corlissa has lost too many families
to even think about losing one more
but here she stands, holding Ashli
with Cancer pounding on their door
Demario keeps his hood up
he has to play it cool
he says he's just too dumb
and the streets pay better than school
Jami got kicked out again
and Danny lives out of his car
but a listening ear, a gentle hug
and advice go only so far
no get rich quick, travel-sized hope
will get them through the day
they can smell plastic apathy
and know all the tired cliches
You don't come in a chewable pill
or in a handy virus scan
But I wish they could just hold on to You
like a key chain in their hands

"I'm leaving you well and whole. That's my parting gift to you. Peace. I don't leave you the way you're used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don't be upset. Don't be distraught. " John 14:27

"I'm ashamed to admit that I've sometimes offered people cheap hope. I've made Jesus seem like a back-slapping frat buddy rather than a war-hardened hero. I've peddled him like the peanut guy at the ball park. "God! I've got some red-hot God here!" I've held out the plastic, easy hope hyped by the preachers of a bargain-basement God when all the while, the hope God offeres is raw and real and unvarnished . . . It's a passionate hope, a real hope, a battle-scarred and yet victorious hope. Only a hope like that could ever conquer heartaches this strong and wounds this deep and pain as fresh as today's headlines." Steven James, Story

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Laughing With You

"On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence." Psalm 100:1

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20

I love how Your with me everywhere . . .
You got to be laughing with me on this one!
I just hope Lauren doesn't resent this in a few years . . .
Lord, please keep her silly as long as possible.

"Damien: Say crack again
Janice: Crack"
Mean Girls

Friday, April 13, 2007

Living Up to Her Name

"She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor."
Proverbs 4:9

Lauren (crowned with flowers) Grace (mercy, beauty, or good will)

her life verse highlights the page
a timeless thought, an intimate moment
captured on an ancient scroll
Solomon offering hand-me-down wisdom
from the man after Your own heart
a love for learning that surpasses
any physical beauty or earthly monarchy
beyond any temple he could conceive
or any lover he could woo with poetry
a simple request for wisdom
only to know You more
and all this before the Messiah gift
and the true meaning of Grace
long before her golden hair slithered
in the crisp spring wind by the swing set
long before those big blue eyes
began to turn green like mine
long before her slippery smile
and that machine-gun laugh
long before she fell asleep on his chest
or danced to the sound of her middle name
You chose to define, embody and tender it
to this paragon little girl of mine
whose wisdom leaves my mouth gaping
and whose beauty reminds me of everything You
everything Grace

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." Titus 2:11

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Kiss on the Nine Yard Line

almost ten years of marriage
I still can't figure this guy out
and I love it
he still hasn't told me why
we always had to sit on the nine yard line
eleven years ago
when we gazed at the stars
and had those falling-in-love
midnight conversations
when he asked that question
that made me gasp
and kiss him on the cheek
and begin to chase him
"Have you ever looked at the stars
and wondered,
am I looking right in the face of God?"
in this aged journey
when his thoughts are mostly hidden
when his art still fascinates me
when his cologne still makes me weak
when mommy upstages wife
and exhaustion sleeps in
missing the midnight conversations
in this complicated fettered life of routine
help us get back to that place
where two dreamers
met each other
on the nine yard line
asked some questions
and found You
in the stars

By the way, You make a great matchmaker . . . .

"The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters,
but a [wo]man of understanding draws them out." Proverbs 20:5

"Artists look at things differently than non-artists do. We notice detail; we appreciate nuance and beauty. Some people might look at the evening sky and all they see is a bunch of stars. But an artist looks at it and sees beauty and meaning. Artists want to sit under the stars and soak it all in. They want to gaze at the moon and be dazzled. They want to paint a picture of it or write a song or a poem." Rory Noland, The Heart of the Artist

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?" Psalm 8:3-4

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Pastel Irony

pale green four year old eyes see Easter only in Pastels
the pitter patter of patten leather when dresses ring like bells
eggs hide under tall, white lilies waiting to be found
marshmallow chicks pop from shells, masking a meaning more profound
She rubs her eyes and wakes up to an Easter basket in her room
too young to see the blood on the cross or hear the echo of an empty tomb
oh, she knows the story from cardboard books and reads "Jesus died"
smiling faces waving palms, and counting the twelve men by Your side
a pastel version of a violent week, I wish I could show her what's missing
three times denied, one last meal, and Judas two-faced kissing,
the sound of nails crushing bones in hands that came to heal
Your desperate plea to a distant father that night You went up to kneel,
Your silence at the accusations, Your love for those who attacked,
the words to the thief on the cross, the blood running down Your back,
a strength in ultimate sacrifice and a love we never imagined,
it's all just a little too much for her preschool mind to fathom,
I know she'll have to find You herself when she finally comes of age
I hope I'm there when she cries at the sight of the true glory on that full page
She's marching in the Pastel parade without knowing the battle before
her ringlets dance to the victory song without knowing the cost of the war
For now, I smile at her beauty and take snapshots of her in Pastels
and match her giggles when she dies her fingers along with smooth eggshells
Thank you, Lord, for the changing path that will lead to that long awaited day
when she will chase after and cling for life to the true meaning of Easter Sunday.

"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.'' John 11:25

Whips and fists and tears and chains are the chapter headings of the human story--a story that's still unfolding, still being told. A tale in which darkness is alive, and hell is too often at high tide. But there's one thing stronger than the chains on our souls: the love of a Jewish carpenter. The crack of dawn at Easter is really the sound of chains falling away." Steven James, Story

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Right to Bear Armor

minor characters highlight Your pages
winking for someone to notice
Jonathan's sidekick stopped by today
with a little piece of advice
inscribed on the shield he held for his master
reminding me of a shiny Nike symbol
javelin doubts hurled from my questions
Didn't he hesitate?
Jonathan, prince of the Enemy kingdom
wants to walk into the camp
But he raised the shield
with "Do all that you have in mind"
another accidental spear toss
Didn't he wonder if Jon was crazy?
two cliffs echoing vulnerability
smoke signals giving away their position
but this time he catches the spear
like some cartoon superhero
with "Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul."
with that I knew
I'm joining a new crusade
no longer in charge of the battle plans
blueprints penned in another's hand
all to bring You glory
what a privilege to be an armor-bearer
to some guys with crazy ideas
so crazy
it just might work . . .

"On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff; one was called Bozez, and the other Seneh. One cliff stood to the north toward Micmash, the other to the south toward Geba.
Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, "Come, let's go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.
'Do all that you have in mind,' his armor-bearer said. 'Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.'"
1 Samuel 14: 4-7

"I believe God is trying to raise up a global community of Christian artists who are fully devoted to the lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives. My friend, if that's the desire of your heart, forsake all else and follow him. He's calling us to play a major role in the church. what an honor. What a privilege. Oh, may we be found trustworthy (1 Cor. 4:2)!" Rory Noland, The Heart of the Artist

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Don't look for a sign, just be one . . .

seven days of searching for a sign

only to discover a calling
to rest and be one
pointing to You
seven days of whispers
from the Spirit of Truth
revealing the teeter-totter balance
of humility and self-doubt
seven days squinting to find more of You
in the black and white pages
even when it all seemed gray
but there's beauty and clarity
in the muddled Monet
seven days of standing in the fountain
holding an umbrella
looking ridiculous
seven days asking for a sign
when all You wanted
was for me to continue to be one
just in a new location
and what a spot it is
seven days of standing at the fork
when all I had to do was trust
and follow You
the Master Pioneer
into the wild
now if I only knew what to pack . . .

"But I can go hopefully and boldly, in faith that this is God's agenda and I'm on mission from Christ. I can be a signpost of the kingdom because He has been one for me. And when I arrive wherever I am sent, I know what to do--I will love people until they can feel it, I will proclaim Jesus' reign with words and actions and love."
Rick McKinley, This Beautiful Mess

"Jesus, grilled by the Pharisees on when the kingdom of God would come, answered, "The kingdom of God doesn't come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, 'Look here!' or, 'There it is!' And why? Because God's kingdom is already among you."
Luke 17:21 (Msg)

"Forget the umbrella. Take a risk. Chance it. Step out. Stand in the fountain, sing on the street, order something different . . . Follow Jesus, the Master Pioneer into the wild. "
Pastor Mark Waltz, "20 Ways to Look for God in '07" sermon 12/31/06

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Knock , Knock. Who's there? Opportunity.

Guide me through Your Word
to find the roadsigns to Your will,
"How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!" Psalm 139: 17
blend my thoughts and Yours
until we take the right path together . . .
"Every prudent man acts out of knowledge,
but a fool exposes his folly." Proverbs 13:16
Help me to act out of knowledge,
but not allow myself to be paralyzed
by the fear of folly unveiled . . .
"Be very careful, then, how you live—
not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity." Ephesians 5:15-16

That's always been the goal,
a balance of caution and adventure
to seize every opportunity
to love others like You love me,

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders;
make the most of every opportunity.
Let your conversation be always full of grace,
seasoned with salt, so that you may know
how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:5-6
I've always loved bringing out the best flavor of others,
and isn't that the true meaning of being the salt of the earth . . .
"Epaphras, who is one of you
and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings.
He is always wrestling in prayer for you,
that you may stand firm in all the will of God,
mature and fully assured.
I vouch for him that he is working hard for you." Colossians 4:12-13
What an opportunity: To be an "Epaphrus"
for an amazing group of kingdom-bringers,
to make their jobs a little easier,
to lighten their loads, so they can do even more for You . . .

"Carry each other's burdens,
and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

You and I've both noticed lately
that it's getting harder to bring Your kingdom
and still submit to the authorities at my school . . .
"Consequently, he who rebels against the authority
is rebelling against what God has instituted,
and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." Romans 13:2

But I've always loved the thrill of the front lines
the risk, the secret victories, the spy within,
the small light breaking through the darkness
loving these kids through the day
hoping it gets them through the night . . .
"Each man will be like a shelter from the wind
and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land." Isaiah 32:2

Maybe rather than fearing what's ahead,
I should look back on the path behind me
and pay attention to which path seems
like the one You've been preparing me for . . .

"But David said to Saul,
'Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep.
When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock,
I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth.
When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.
Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear;
this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them."1 Samuel 17 : 34-36
Maybe teaching was the shepherd job . . .
it doesn't mean David didn't love his sheep
when he decided to follow Your will
with his scrawny little self and a slingshot
and that's pretty equal to what I bring to the table
which is to say a little knack for storytelling
and a passion for pointing others toward You . . .
"If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing,
he deceives himself." Galatians 6:3
But what if David had not looked up from his sheep?
After all, if he dropped the ball, would the flock even notice?
Israel on the other hand was another story.
What if he saw the need, but had no confidence,
no faith in himself, or more importantly in You . . .
"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb;
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139: 13-14
Is doubting myself just a self-pitied way of doubting You?
"In the same way, let your light shine before men,
that they may see your good deeds
and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew5:16
Am I holding tight to gifts You gave
only to keep them from what You truly had in mind all along?
I've asked for signs, but that's not always the way You roll
and I have one more day
to listen to more of your whispers
I'm still listening . . .
and thank You
for teaching me the value
of an intimate whisper

"I think God still whispers in the ears of a lot of artists, urging us to write, sing, play, act, paint, draw, and perform all to his glory. Instead of quitting, let's faithfully steward the gifts and abilities God has so graciously given us." Rory Noland, Thriving as an Artist in the Church (68)

"Even if you run ahead of God, He'll find you."
Dalene Stuteville, superfriend, superwriter, supermom, superwoman of God

"The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." 1 John 2:17

"The church is the hope of the world. Serving God in the local church is a high and noble calling. We need artists in the church today who have a passion for the power of the arts . . . When God anoints the arts, there is an awesome power that he unleashes to penetrate hearts, minds, and souls. We of all people should never lose sight of how powerful the arts can be in the church."
Rory Noland, The Heart of the Artist

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Precious Cargo

oh, for a pair of binoculars . . .
to see which path to take them down
which field to buy
which garden to plant
to be the proverbs 31 woman they deserve
the wife "worth far more than diamonds"
who can be "trusted without reserve"
which path would treat him "generously"
and lead him to be "greatly respected"
a merit long overdue
like the fastest man in the world
without a medal around his neck
in my heart I know
You have "provision I know not of"
though the numbers look like caution tape
when calenders and envelopes
swallow the checkbook
like Jonah and the whale
but I'm not trying to run away
I'm just trying to get closer to You
both paths would have me
"eager to get started"
eager to "roll up my sleeves"
and "sense the worth of my work"
okay, maybe one more than the other
was that an answer?
If I was walking the path alone
I know in my heart the answer
but there are others standing with me
the ones You gave me to "keep an eye on"
precious cargo I don't deserve
which path would give me the gift of time?
time to hold their hands along the path
time to listen and talk to Lauren
about her own paths to Proverbs
time to lead her to You
where love is true wealth and hope
oh, for a pair of binoculars . . .
or maybe we should just take a step together
trust You
and "face tomorrow with a smile"
so we "may take hold of life
that is truly life"

"May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you." 1 Thessalonians 3: 12

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." 1 Timothy 6: 17-19

"A good woman is hard to find,
and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve,
and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
all her life long . . .
She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she's put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day . . .
She's quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn't worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear . . .
Her husband is greatly respected
when he deliberates with the city fathers . . .
Her clothes are well-made and elegant,
and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
"Many women have done wonderful things,
but you've outclassed them all!"
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
Give her everything she deserves!
Festoon her life with praises!"
Proverbs 31: 10-31 (Msg)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Thy Kingdom Come or Bubble Gum?

solitude sits like a wise old man with a rag tag bible in his lap
Your roadside signs await in his leather bound gift wrap
my right hand unlocks this pop up book of old
while my left holds fears and questions like mosaic gold
Could I truly "forget what's behind and strain toward what is ahead" (Phil 3:13)
will I choose one course and turn around to see the death of a flower bed?
eight years of planting a dream and "shadows of things to come"
but reality is only found in You, the one and only one (Col 2:17)
You said submission to authority leads to "knowledge of the truth"(1 Tim 2:1-4)
But could they see through the rhetoric with their swimming minds of youth?
I spoke in codes that the law would allow to try to point them to You
"Carpe Diem" and "Follow your dreams" and "To thine own self be true"
Or was this only just "philosophy, deceptive and hollow" (Col 2: 8)
At the end of the day could they really name who they were meant to follow?
You've called us to "proclaim freedom" and "preach good news to the poor" (Luke 4:18)
All along, that's what I thought I was doing behind my classroom door.
A mission of unchartered territory inside the brick box of public school
but perhaps one voice can't be heard in the world of majority rule.
But it isn't just a job, it's looking in their eyes, listening to their stories
wiping tears with failures and cheering in their glories
I "clothed myself in compassion" (Col 3:12) and I know they felt Your love
But at the end of the day, is "this really cool teacher" all that they speak of?
Is my time away from family truly helping "thy kingdom come"? (Matt 6:10)
Am I bringing You to their lives or is it all just bubble gum?
So even though I'm working hard, maybe I'm standing idle and still (2 Thess 3:11)
Lord, show me if I'm giving up on a dream or moving on to chase after Your will.

By your words I can see where I'm going;
they throw a beam of light on my dark path.
I've committed myself and I'll never turn back
from living by your righteous order . . .
Festoon me with your finest sayings, God;
teach me your holy rules . . .
I inherited your book on living; it's mine forever—
what a gift! And how happy it makes me!
I concentrate on doing exactly what you say—
I always have and always will."
Psalm 119: 5-6, 8, 11-12

"Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." James 4: 14-15

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Mother Hen

mother hen stands guard
afraid to abandon them for a dream
of greater provision
of a bigger megaphone
for Your kingdom come
a dream of more chicks to
cheer out of their shells
toward the light of Your son
more Isaiah 61:2-3
"to comfort all who mourn
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor."
this longing for soul makeovers
this ache for their stories,
these eyes in the back of my head
these listening ears
these arms to hug them
show me when it's time to let go
or hold tighter
Lord, use this part of me for Your glory
whichever path You lead me down

"But I will defend my house against marauding forces. Never again will an oppressor overrun my people, for now I am keeping watch." Zechariah 9:8

"Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others." 1 Corinthians 10:24

"Instead of saying 'God, fix my problem', say 'God use my problem'." Pastor Rob Wegner, "Making It Through" sermon 4/1/2007