Saturday, August 27, 2011

Summer Treasure

Life once clung to
her pearly ceramic spiral,
wrapping itself round
and around inside her,
in salty emerald water.
But no more.
All is quiet now
on the ocean floor.
Sunlight filters down,
waves above run to shore
and return.
She is in the shallows now,
the sandy bottom holds her
in suspense,
pink insides upturned,
waiting hence.
A splash, a laugh, a hand,
waiving her head high
above damp yellow curls
-for joy.
"A beauty!" says the boy.
Cradled to his ear
she releases her memories
of waves and tides
and ancient seas-
the boy is pleased
to hear.
In the curl
of his brown arm
she fills him
with her salty smell.
All is well, all is well
in the love affair
of boy and shell.


In celebration of the Jersey Shore summer of John Sebastian who knows God's Creation as his playground and God's Heart as his own.

The mercy of God is an ocean divine,
A boundless and fathomless flood.
Launch out in the deep, cut away the shore line,
And be lost in the fullness of God.
A. B. Simpson

Thursday, August 25, 2011

To Sherry Standing

Refuse to fall down.
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down
lift your heart toward heaven
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled,
and it will be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you from lifting
your heart toward heaven — only you.

It is in the middle of misery that
so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good came of this,
is not yet listening.

A prayer by Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs

I read this tonight and thought of my sister, Sherry, recovering from a motorcycle accident. Faith in a walker is still faith and recovery is a process of baby steps taken by that same faith.

Keep listening, Sher. His goodness is knitting you back together.

Bring joy to your servant for to you I lift up my soul. Psalms 86:4

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

But God...

Once upon a time my only child looked over the rim of Hell and singed off his eyebrows but it was my heart the smell of burnt hair clung to.

"But God..."

What an amazing phrase. Interjecting possibilities and safety and restoration into the most desperate of situations. I was smashed to bits, wandering in a desert, praying through cracked lips...but God! He was sending grace ahead into my future and planning a homecoming when my own hand was too tired to make the Welcome Home banner.

Even as my son was fasting from virtue and every solidly life giving thing we had ever lived before him, Christ was setting a place at the table.

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn't, and doesn't, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn't been so weak, we wouldn't have known what to do anyway...But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. (Romans 5 The Message)

I rejoice to say the fatted calf was eaten years ago and now my son lives by God's grace to teach his own son of the sure mercies of our Father. God heard me and rescued my son. He answered my prayers and honored my fasts.

If you are a parent in need of a miracle, Jesus offers Himself as that miracle. He will not fail you. He will not dismiss your tears. "The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10)

Christ has a special blessing for such Extreme Motherhood*: The child that was dead is returned to life.

If I wrote this for you, hold fast to a hope. God is good for it.

My own gratitude is daily and absolute.


* My Bible Study and Encouragement for mother's of difficult children.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

As Your Hands Do

Artist's Prayer by Marcy Tilton

(Holy)Spirit, grant me:
The vision and wisdom of the elder she-eagle
The fierce focus of the lioness
The fluid leadership of wild geese
Small creatures’ ways of stillness
Beaver’s strong and beautiful cozy lodge
The devotion of a dearly beloved loyal dog.

Fill my spirit with the wild abandon-infused
winds of autumn that keep positive and
negative space moving and changing,
charged and clear.
Fill my inner circle with Beloved in the
form of lover, partner, true friends, family,
truth and laughter.

May my work reflect the light and the
shadows that are my being.
May I have clarity.
May I know when and where to begin and
when and how to stop.
May I always have the strength to ask the
hard question,
to peer deeply into the dark pools,
the patience to wait for sediment to clear.

This gem of a prayer was in a devotional I was reading today.
She had me with her desire to be filled with the "wild abandon-infused winds of autumn that keep positive and negative space moving and changing, charged and clear." I stretched up on tiptoes inside and inhaled that one, letting it fill every unused musty corner of me.

Lord, breathe upon brushes, fill inkpots, sharpen pencils; light bright fires between brain cells, call to thoughts and intentions, speak to the dough in the pan, mortar the spices. Let something of beauty come out...let it come out of us!

Let us have faith in our giftedness, the manifestation of Your own creative ability straining against what is common. Let us see clearly, hear the melody and tie on our tap shoes! Let it all be for you and through you by our free hands and hearts and wills. Love and art as you first saw it, uncorrupted and glad-faced. Art in story or clay, paint or pasta, in colored paper draped for birthdays and cards homemade and fragrant. Guitar strings calling. Flutes answering. Art for sale or art for-keeps. Your breath on embers, our heats on fire, offering.

Wild-hearted gifts. Gifts from quiet places. Gifts that render this world transparent. (Some of us have the Sistine Chapel to lay at His feet. Others the love of showing a child how to draw a stem on a flower. It is great love that determines the value. There is not a one of us ungifted.) May our hands do as Your hands do that this world may know the beauty we live in You.

The heavens are sounding the glory of God; the arch of the sky makes clear the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1

What is the inspiration infused Holy-Wind showing you?


TODAY-Mend a quarrel. Search out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a love letter. Share some treasure. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in a word or deed.

TODAY-Keep a promise. Find the time. Forego a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Listen. Apologize if you were wrong. Try to understand. Flout envy. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Appreciate, be kind, be gentle. Laugh a little more.

TODAY-Deserve confidence. Take up arms against malice. Decry complacency. Express your gratitude. Worship your God. Gladden the heart of a child.Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love.Speak it again. Speak it still again. Speak it still once again.

Author Unknown


There is a line of scripture the describes the Proverbs 31 woman that became an instant favorite of mine:

She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness. (v. 26)

The Law of Kindness. What a delightful thought. What a needed reality. You only have to stand in line at the grocery or the bank or overhear someone's cell conversation or their biting remarks to their children in a store to be assaulted with course, thoughtless, unkind speech. Our society suffers from an appalling lack of manners let alone kindness.

We all have to look in the mirror on this one at one time or another. I surely do. The Irish have an expression that describes me sometimes, "A tongue that can clip a hedge."

I looked up the the kindness scripture in Hebrew and found that one of the words for kindness can also mean favor. I found myself asking the Lord to cause me to so speak that all who listen would be aware of God's favor upon my life and even more so would enjoy His favor as a direct result of my words spoken to them or overheard.

"Forgo a gratitude...speak your love...speak it again."

(The clerk at Wal-Mart isn't the only one listening.)

Favor someone TODAY.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Risky Business by Kimberly Lorentzen

Every once in a while, I'm struck by the thought that what God did to rescue us was more significant that we can ever imagine. We know it was sacrificial. We’re told it was painful. But it was also risky.

We think of risk as what we do. We take the risk to forgive, to love, to trust… But God took the first and greatest risk (which, by the way, makes all the risks we think we take for Him quite safe). The Son left Heaven and His Father's side and was born. The “One Who Always Was” was born - a baby.

Babies don't know anything. A newborn baby doesn't know that He is the Son of God, come to rescue all of mankind. Jesus left Heaven knowing that at conception He would forget (I’m not sure exactly how that all worked, but you get the idea). God (Father, Son and Spirit) had to trust that Jesus would find His way.

So it was a great risk: Would He remain sinless? Would he grow up to know His real Father? Would He listen to the Holy Spirit and discover who He really was? Would He discover the Plan that He had helped to formulate and carry it through? Because He had a choice, after all. Choices. Just like the choices Adam and Eve had – and we all know how that turned out. The whole plan of redemption - the very Trinity! - rested on a baby!

What a brave, risky thing God did! Father, Son and Spirit risked it all! For us! God risked His Son, Himself, the relationship of the Trinity, and all of creation, just to rescue us. And Jesus was forever altered. For all of eternity past, the Son was perfect. From the cross forward, He is scarred. Because

These are the thoughts about Jesus that leave me breathless. So this was on my mind today, and tonight I listened to a recording of Jackie Pullinger (missionary to the Walled City, Hong Kong; she wrote "Chasing the Dragon") speaking at a church somewhere in the English-speaking world, and here is what she said (emphasis mine):

“As there's no more pain and crime [in Heaven], as there's no more death, no more sickness, we are perfect because of Him, and we're washed clean because of Him. The only one scarred in the whole of Heaven is Him. For that book, called The Revelation, tells us there's a Lamb, looking as though it's been slain. How strange that for eternity, we are perfected in the presence of a scarred Lamb.”

The only one scarred in the whole of Heaven is Him.

I think of Him as standing out among the whole of Heaven in beauty, in flashes of light, in power and victory. I have not – until now – thought of Him as standing out in all of Heaven as the only one who is scarred. He bears eternal marks so that we can be free of all of ours eternally. I’m overwhelmed.

What to do with a God like that?

That is the question, isn’t it?

What to do with Jesus?

Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ's sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought.

Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It's because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.

1 Peter 1:18-21 The Message

Kimberly Schulz Lorentzen is a graphic artist, huntress, wife, mother and God-Chaser who lives in Alaska and guests here whenever she spills goodness into my email.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Stranger

In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things, the figure of him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

He owned a single robe. A good one but only one. Jesus who clothed the sheep with fine wool, the fields with sweet grass and the mountains with purple majesty, ate and slept in one garment that was ultimately lost in a dice game. To the uninformed, He lost it all and in the end, His business plan a seeming failure, He was buried on credit.

Church is big business. How could Christ have missed such an opportunity? It took the the selling of Indulgences, Crusades and a prosperity gospel to bring the church to Wall Street. The Savior preferred to put treasure in earthen vessels. His belief was that the Sabbath was made for man not the other way around. He would seem an odd-sock to many today.

I have known pastors who openly declared that they wanted the local church, "their" church to be the life of all who attended. That members should be there every time the doors were open (to affirm leadership). God never intended for his servants to view the beloved as assets in a personal portfolio. They criticize the Pope but secretly lay claim to the Doctrine of Infallibility in their own hearts. Many of us are as full of error. We have replaced Christ-mindedness with church-mindedness.

Christ invested in people. He is still looking for places to invest. For the eyes of the Lord go this way and that, through all the earth, letting it be seen that he is the strong support of those whose hearts are true to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9. The true-hearted have His support, those with His agenda in mind who recognize that all resources are really His and that they are ours only in stewardship.

We live in dangerous days. Our nation is impoverishing itself. Our national treasure is flying out the door. Other nations mock us and we are vulnerable. We have misspent and overspent but we have abandoned the values themselves that provided our stability. God will not allow Himself to be trivialized. We worry about being able to borrow from China and at what rate of interest when the One who established and fostered and protected our nation has limitless resources for the true-hearted.

In government, in church and in our homes less really is more. Bonhoeffer said it with a clarity born of adversity and prison bars, "Earthly possessions dazzle our eyes and delude us into thinking that they can provide security and freedom from anxiety. Yet all the time they are the very source of anxiety."

Lighten the load. Clean out the basement. Empty the garage. Buy less "stuff." Open your wallet to the sacred. Pay it forward. The great treasure of our lives is knowing the Son of God and doing His will on the Earth. To plant where He says and harvest where He says. To give with dazzling extravagance and celebration (but with ourselves out of the spotlight). To lay up treasure we will see again one day and to know all the goodness it has produced under His hand. He is trustworthy to keep it and us.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he's the one who will keep you on track.
Don't assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own;
give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
your wine vats will brim over.
Proverbs 3 The Message

Let's give to Jesus and not be shy about it. Let's look where we have been investing and see if we can improve. Do we really need a new car? Maybe, if so invest there, but if God's heart is elsewhere then plant elsewhere and change the oil.

Is your church a Kingdom Midwife? If so, pour water on her hands. If not, find one worthy of your treasure. Are you funding the Gospel or another gimmick? I encourage you to prayerfully examine where and what you are offering. I encourage you to search the scriptures concerning the concept of giving.

The tithe was an Old Testament concept. 10% belonged to God. The New Testament church believed that all belonged to Him. Give as you are able, as God prospers your ability to give and fires your heart for the work. (You will leave this life naked. Your wardrobe is purchased here and its embellishments sent ahead so you may want to invest with that in mind.)

Get out of debt so that your treasure is directed back into the Kingdom. Acquire the wisdom that pertains to giving and prosperity will follow.

You're blessed when you meet Wisdom,
when you make friends with Insight.
She's worth far more than money in the bank;
her friendship is better than a big salary.
Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth;
nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her.
With one hand she gives long life,
with the other she confers recognition.
Her manner is beautiful,
her life wonderfully complete.
She's the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her.
Hold her tight—and be blessed!

Find a field and give until you feel your very soul shudder with joy. It happens. Delight upon delight as your soul fattens and the One who was crucified is no longer a stranger. This stranger has become our friend. His ways of doing things will become familiar and less strange as well. Friends share secrets and dreams and plans. Listen. I am listening too. I have a garage and a life needing a broom but listening is a beginning and giving is one answer to the poverty of our times.

Let's open our hands and receive.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Breathe a Memory

Beloved, thou hast brought me many flowers
Plucked in the garden, all the summer through
...and (in) winter it seemed as if they grew.
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

The flowers of summer for a winter heart.
Grace and beauty sent on ahead in a time of abundance
to fill gray spaces with color and fragrance.
If you have ever gathered an arm load
of snapdragons and sweet peas for love,
and placed them in Jesus lap, they are waiting for you now.
Heady reminders, in a hard time,
of spiritually warm days
and a season that will return.
Sweet peas are in God. Summers are in God. You are in God.
Love enclosed and present.
Open your arms wide.
Breathe a memory:

For, lo, the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone;
the flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come...
the fig tree puts forth her green figs,
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
(Songs 2)

"Come away."

With love for some friends and family who need a second spring today. Me too. Sometimes I think I hate to see fall come because I have not fully shaken off my winter skin even in high summer. But even if my pesky winter heart is cramping my style there is a remedy. All our seasons are in God. He had me at "Come Away." Let's do it. Don't even pack a toothbrush, just climb on the porch swing next to Him. Bury your face in the flowers of summers past, picked for Him in prayer and sent ahead on fine clear days. God is like Grandma...He saves everything...and everyone...Come!...until you thaw and are ready to do some planting again...

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Sabbath Day's Journey

"If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." C. S. Lewis

A Sabbath Day's Journey

I close my eyes
and turn my vision inward
to a deeper place inside
A place that connects to something
I begin a day-journey
moving closer by
painfully slow steps-
A Sabbath day's journey
but the holy day is every day
and the journey to find
the God who makes
His home in me
is limited by life
on the outside
I can only go so far

So Heaven waits for me-
waiting in line at the grocery
pouring bleach into white towels
opening mail
punching a time clock
simmering soup
calling a parent
paying bills
craving sleep
feeling children tugging-

Then a moment softly turns
as I pick up a seashell
to scrub around the sink
and I hear the Ocean-
breakers from Heaven
lap upon my shore
Salty smells
grainy sand
clouds in blue sky
a little fire
fish cooking-
A meal waiting,
heart warming
He has made a
Sabbath day's journey-
to me.

Kat Cavanaugh LaMantia