Author Archive

The Happiest of Birthdays to Mom & A Celebratory Giveaway

**UPDATE**
Congratulations to the winners of the birthday drawing! Your names are posted below. Watch your inbox for an email from Living Proof later today so that we can get you your gift!

BONUS: The wonderful people at AMG Publishers have extended a 50% discount to any of you who would like to order a Key Word Study Bible! Click here to get more information, or to order your Bible. AMG Publishers

Winners:
#523 – Carole Germain             #4348 – Karen Quinn
#2282 – Merissa G.                    #4399 – Anna Bunch
#2321 – Marilyn Riley                #4430 – Nancy Beeey
#2756 – Merissa Ury                  #4813 – Myrlene Darnell
#2876 – Beth Longar                  #5648 – Nan Smith
#3937 – Dani Turner                  #5798 – Rachel C.

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A few nights ago I walked my buck wild new puppy around my neighborhood, watched the sun sink deep down into the horizon, and then settled in back at home. I flipped on my favorite season of the West Wing and I ate an entire bag of tortilla chips and ¾ a jar of my favorite salsa for dinner. What is it they say again? The apple does not fall far from the tree. Or something like that?

You see when we were growing up Mom would throw us kids in the back of Brontosaurus the station wagon and haul us halfway across the city to her old favorite Tex-Mex joint. She ordered a pint of salsa and a gigantic grease-stained brown paper bag of tortilla chips for take-out and she would eat all of this and only this for her dinner. Her own dinner. I can’t remember what we kids even ate, or if she fed us at all. I’m only kidding about that last part.

My mom was born at high noon in a fierce thunderstorm, my grandfather said. Her presence still shifts the atmosphere. A few weeks ago Mom left for a week in the hill country for a time of writing and solitude. The second she got back home, I loaded up my stuff and headed out to spend a night with she and my Dad. You see, for me, going to hang out with my parents isn’t really like going to hang out with the parents. Far from duty, it’s one of my favorite things to do. We caught up on all the life stuff that night. And then in the morning we drank our coffee in our pajamas and by 8:30 a.m. at the latest we had already covered topics such as the theology in Ephesians, the New Testament canon, the Holy Spirit’s role in the interpretation of Scripture, and the Festal Letter of Athanasius.

I have to say, this woman utterly dazzles me. She is the sweetest in the land. She is gracious and sanguine and loving and kind, no doubt, but she is serious and intense and focused and courageous. She has opinions and perspective and boldness and wisdom from the ground like no other. For all her awesomeness she is not self-righteous or squeamish, and God knows I have pushed her limits.

Mom is deeply committed to our family and I’ve always known that full well but I’ve also seen that she’s preoccupied with something a whole lot bigger than us. Probably the most important thing I have learned from her is that being caught up in Jesus and what He is doing in the world is everything. It is the ultimate priority and a family committed to His work in the world will get the privilege of making sacrifices together.

The four of us

Mom and Dad

Over the past few years in my own journey I found myself in an unknown place, a place where a heart could break deeper and wider and in more directions than I could have imagined possible. Mom has walked alongside me on this road further than any human could be expected to walk with another. She would have had good reasons to just sit out a while and catch her breath. But she never left my side. The road has been bumpy but also tedious and repetitive. When the landscape didn’t seem to change for a long, long time, she kept plodding along with me, carrying my burdens and helping me shoulder the grief that felt too much to bear.

Mom & Me Walking

Mom is tender and she is strong and she is not afraid to look pain and grief and loss dead in the eye. Even more, she is daring enough to hope against hope. To see in others, even me, the beginnings of life and growth and health and wholeness where others might only see brokenness and death. She has shined the light of Jesus on me more times than I can count.

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She can fry a chicken and whip up mashed potatoes and gravy with the best of the Southern cooks. Her pleasures are simple: the reading of books, sitting on the front porch, walking her dogs in the woods, eating dinner with my Dad, playing games on the floor with her grandkids, and drinking tea with Amanda and me. But make no mistake she is wicked smart and complex and multifaceted. She is so much more than even the best caricature of her could ever hope to be.

Mom & AB on Piano

I love her.

Punting the River Cam

Yes, I love her. If one photo could capture the light and color she brings to my world, this is it:

The Color She Brings

It is my joy and honor to be her daughter and also to work for her at Living Proof. This blog giveaway is just one of many ways I celebrate her beautiful life today.  The first three gifts are from Living Proof and the last two gifts are personal gifts from me.

First and foremost, we are giving away eight Key Word Study Bibles. My mom gave me one of these Bibles many years ago. It was one of the first Bibles I ever really remember being excited about. It helped me become familiar with various Greek and Hebrew words before I ever took a Greek or Hebrew reading class. Every time I read it I was reminded that the Scriptures we hold in our hands in English are a translation. Remembering this often is a good thing and will take a person a long way in the study of the Bible, I think.

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Second, we are giving away an assortment of several pounds of favorite Houston coffee beans. My mom is a serious coffee drinker, so this is just an obvious addition. This package will include but not be limited to one of my current favorites:

Temporada 2

Third, we are giving away an arrangement of fresh flowers Mom loves. And, really, who wouldn’t like these?

Olive & Cocoa Floral Bouquet

Fourth, we are giving away a crossbody saddlebag. Mom and I both carry versions of this crossbody bag over and over again until one breaks and we have to buy another one.

The Savannah Saddlebag

Fifth and finally, we are giving away a small bottle of Flowerbomb. Mom wears lots of different perfumes, but she most often travels with this one.

Flowerbomb

So, if you’re interested in our giveaway please do pop on and say “Happy Birthday” and show Mom some love. Your comment becomes your entry into our random drawing. Comments will officially close 24 hours after the post is published, and please only one comment per person. The names of our winners will be posted at the top of this post at some point on Thursday.

I hope you all are happy and well.

 

And, Mom, I love you!

The best is yet to come,

Melissa

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Dying, and Behold, We Live

Well, hello there. My name is Melissa. I used to be around here some. Forgive me for the awkward intrusion. This is less of an essay or a blog post and more like sharing some disjointed sentence-fragments I scribbled down this morning. I hope you don’t mind. Sometimes when I have the most in my heart, I am least able to write. But I guess I just wanted to write something, you know? You see, like the colors of spring, the beauty of Jesus is taking me again by surprise this Holy Week. Each Holy Week I wonder if the climactic narratives about Jesus will finally this time, this year, hit me flat. But they don’t. They seize me again.

Jesus seizes me.

I grew up in a Baptist church. My most vivid memories of the Easter season are from Palm Sunday, the big green palms and the choir decked in long white robes. And the hymns. But then I don’t remember much of anything between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday. Now, that could say more about me than it does my church tradition. Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it? (Also, I wasn’t paying that much attention.)

Several years ago now I got the opportunity to spend some time studying with teachers and students from other Christian denominations. I think often about words I first read those years ago from Walter Brueggemann. He said that the final three days of Passion (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) “must not be homogenized but must be kept discreet and distinctive, each for its own weightiness” (Brueggemann reviewing Alan E. Lewis’ Between Cross and Resurrection). For the first time, I learned to slow down and carefully take my time walking through Holy Week. My friends taught me to contemplate what the cross of Christ meant on its own terms, to confront the violence in my own heart on Good Friday. To feel the utter despair of dashed hopes and dreams on Holy Saturday. They introduced me to thinkers such as Paul W. Meyer who said things like: “We need sometimes to think about the crucifixion of Jesus as if there had been no resurrection just so that we might understand what the resurrection itself meant for those early Christians” (“The This-Worldliness of the New Testament” by Paul W. Meyer). Thinkers like Meyer forced me to tarry in front of Christ’s cross before rushing to that refrain so familiar to me, “Sunday’s coming!”

I’m currently finishing a wonderful book called A Glorious Dark by A.J. Swoboda (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014). Swoboda argues that Christian faith must enter all three days of the long weekend: “we must embrace the pain of Friday’s sunset, the awkwardness of Saturday’s silence, and the hopeful sunrise of Sunday morning.” Swoboda suggests that most of us, rather than entering the whole weekend, are selective about the one day we want to experience. Swoboda says that this picking and choosing creates three incomplete “knock-off” versions of Christianity:

“Friday Christianity is the religion of those who’ve chosen to find their identity in a spirituality of defeat, death, and loss. Their spiritual depth abides solely in the torment of the suffering on the cross . . . Sunday Christianity is equally problematic. These chipper, slick, ever-too-happy Christians see God in, and only in, victory, prosperity, and blessing . . . Sunday Christianity dismisses the realities of death and loss . . . Saturday Christianity is for those of us who’ve come to consider doubt and ambiguity as final destinations rather than conduits through which we actually enter into resurrection. When we celebrate only Holy Saturday, we believe, in our doubt and questioning, that we have permission to be cynics and deconstructionists—and that everyone should sit in our graves with us.”

I think Swoboda is right about this tendency. I can certainly see it in myself and I think I can see it in others around me too.  Even if I have learned to journey a little slower through Holy Week, to take each day on its own, at heart I have mostly just been a Holy Saturday Christian, I think. Swoboda helped me see that about myself and made me long for more.

Few Christian thinkers conceive of how the death of Jesus and the resurrected life of Jesus co-exist in the Christian as creatively as the apostle Paul. Paul writes to the Corinthians:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Cor. 1.8-10 ESV)

And Paul continues a few chapters later:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2 Cor. 4.8-12 ESV)

Paul not only speaks of sharing in Jesus’ sufferings, he also speaks of sharing in his comfort (2 Cor. 1.3-6). Most stunning is how Paul articulates his apostolic ministry. He describes it as an experience akin to death for him but he says that it renders life in the ones whom he serves. So death is at work in us, but life in you. This absolutely takes my breath away.

Bringing someone else life can feel a lot like dying.

We love to be with people who are “life-giving,” right? We use this phrase often. But we grow weary of being the life-giving ones, because, frankly, it requires a whole lot of dying that we don’t want to do. Because it hurts a lot. Because it goes against everything in the depths of us most of the time. We quickly tire of being the ones who are pouring ourselves out. We want people to get their crap together, to stop being so draining. But if we carry Jesus’ death in our own bodies, if we pour out all we have, if we die to our own selfishness, our own agendas, we will gain everything. The life of Jesus of Nazareth will be made manifest in our mortal flesh, Paul says.

A few days ago I read a sermon by Rowan Williams called “Into Daylight” from Easter Morning, 2004 (see Choose Life; London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013). I thought it was incredibly beautiful and worth sharing an excerpt here with you. Williams says:

“If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, you are not just believing an odd fact from two thousand years ago; you are trusting that there is a kind of life, a kind of love and trust and joy that is the very essence of Jesus’ identity which is now coming to life in you. As it comes to life, you begin to know that no amount of pressure and stress and suffering in your life has power in itself to break the bond that has been created between you and Jesus’ life and activity. You are alive with a fuller and deeper life than just your own. Your resources are more than you could ever have imagined. Jesus rises from the dead so as to find not only his home in heaven but his home in us. He rises so that we may rise out of the prisons of guilt, anxiety, self-obsession or apathy that so constantly close around us. But for this to happen, says St Paul, we have to go on, day after day, getting used to parts of us dying, just as Jesus died: we have to get used to the beloved habits of self-serving and self-protecting being brought into the light that shines from Jesus’ face and withering away in that brightness. That’s why Paul says that Christians go around with both death and life at work in their lives—always trying to let the light of Jesus kill off these sick and deadly habits, always letting the new life that is ours but so much more than ours shine through” (Rowan Williams, Choose Life).

Friends, I wish you and all the ones you love a most meaningful and sacred weekend reflecting on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Lord. From him and through him and to him are all things. “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (2 Cor. 5.14-15 NRSV).

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Autumn Giveaway

Ladies! I think a Friday afternoon deserves a celebration. We’ve almost made it through the entire work week! Woo hoo! We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is always the hardest part of the giveaway because we’d love to gift all 3,911 of you, but alas, we cannot, which I guess is what makes a giveaway so fun. With that said, join me in celebrating our SIX beloved winners for this fabulous giveaway. Believe me when I say we here at the office are coveting each of the gifts and almost threw a fit when we realized we couldn’t enter the giveaway ourselves. We love fun stuff like this just as much as you do!

So, without further ado, congratulations to…

Grand Prize Winner: Cara Koski

Second Prize Winner: Ansley DuRant

Gift number 3: Victoria Gelberg

Gift number 4: Kim Tipton

Gift number 5: Anne Dailey

Gift number 6: Leslie Wood

If y’all would please email me (Lindsee) at blog@lproof.org with your mailing address we willl get these prizes to you ASAP. We love y’all so very, very much. Thanks for playing along. Hope you each have a beautiful, fall weekend!

 

 

 

DEAR SIESTAS! THE MERE THOUGHT OF YOU IS MAKING ME GO ALL-CAPSY.

It has been FOREVER and then some but I have been thinking about you. I know I haven’t been in this here blog-space much recently but I can assure you that I’m still at LPM. My days are full since I’m working and going to school part-time. AGAIN. Yes, again. Somehow even when I vow to walk away for good, I end up right back in the classroom in some capacity. This time around I’m working slowly on a M.A. in Biblical Languages at Houston Baptist University. When I’m not researching something for a project at LPM, I’m taking a Greek class in the Septuagint and a Hebrew readings class in the Joseph narrative. Oh, and how could I forget to mention Winston Jeffrey Fitzpatrick?! A little over a year ago Colin brought home a baby rottweiler and our life has never been the same since (even when I desperately want it to be!). Winnie is SO, SO bad but we love him madly.

Here is W posing in my dining room. Or demanding a filet mignon cooked over medium, I’m not really sure.

Here he is again furious about having to wear his birthday hat:

But really, enough about us.

I want to talk about YOU and a fall giveaway we are doing because we love you and appreciate you.

Now, I should mention at this point that if you are one of those people who is SO OVER all the talk about pumpkin-flavored anything, then you will want to run for your life.

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE.

Do I have a faithful fall remnant?

This weekend we had our first legit “cold-front” here in Houston. It was even down in the forties one night. Glory be! The crisp cold air in my lungs got to me in the best way possible and, of all things, I wanted to cook. There’s just something about fall that always brings me back to the kitchen. Nothing better than listening to a little Norah Jones or The Civil Wars with the windows cracked open, cool breeze dancing through the house, while a chili or stew simmers on the stove. I thought just maybe fall might do the same for some of you so the grand prize winner will get a red Le Creuset signature round dutch oven (red not orange like the one on the box).

I love it passionately and do not want to let it go. I even enjoy posing with the beloved dutch oven:

The second prize to be claimed is a $100 gift card to Pottery Barn because, let’s be honest, Pottery Barn during the fall season is heaven on earth:

Gift number 3 includes an amazing decorative pillow, fall flower arrangement, and Hill Country Home candle.


Gift number 4 includes a fun little clutch from Anthro, a scarf, several pairs of boot socks, and some gorgeous MAC makeup in fallish colors.

Here is Lindsee modeling the scarf. Love her and she can work a scarf better than anyone I know:

This MAC stuff is tough to photograph but fantastic (includes three eye shadow kits and two lipsticks in shades of Russian Red and Viva Glam III).

Gift number 5 has a bunch of fun stuff: Cook’s Illustrated Fall Entertaining magazine, kitchen towels, mulling spices, Hill Country Home candle (again this is one of my faves!), autumn cupcake decorating set, beautiful engraved silver dish, Trader Joe’s Pumpkin bread mix, and more.

Gift number 6 comes with a fun autumn welcome mat, potpourri, decorative kitchen towel, and my favorite ever mulled apple cider candle. DIVINE.

Here is Mom sorting out all the gifts. Isn’t she cute?

So dear friend, for a chance to win one of the six prizes, please leave a comment with your first and last name and tell us something you love about fall.

We love you so much,

Melissa

(Lindsee not pictured here ONLY because she was out of the office when we snapped this photo)

 

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A Few of my Favorite Summer-ish Things: A Random Giveaway

WE HAVE OUR WINNER!!!!!!! CONGRATULATIONS…
#2067  Edie Jones!
I think you will all so appreciate the first sentence of her comment:

“My husband is in Afghanistan and a few ‘favorite things’ would brighten my day!”

How about that, Sisters?!? OK, Edie, please contact Living Proof Ministries at toll free (888) 700-1999 and give us an address. Please ask for Kimberly or Susan. Knowing what we now know, all of us here would want so much to send you to the beach…but, instead, we’re sending the beach to you. ENJOY!!!

PROCEED WITH CAUTION: this post will embody most everything you anticipate and perhaps even despise about women’s ministry. There will even be pink nail polish. As the great Professor Thornbury said a few weeks ago on the Twitterverse “something is not a stumbling block if you can see it coming.” So, consider yourself warned.

Colin and I just returned from a week at the beach in Mexico. It was crazy fantastic. I slept. I read classic literature. I also swam with a dolphin named Duey. And on the day I returned home I was greeted abrasively by a stomach bug and a crick in my neck so bad I could barely move my head. Oh, and then my 100 lb puppy Winston ate my over-priced prescription eye-glasses. But how can I really be frustrated with this bad boy?

Anyway, since this weekend was the Memorial Day holiday I scrolled through numerous tweets from people who were somewhere fabulous while I was at home with a bag of frozen corn under my neck. And I began to weep for the serenity of the ocean and my dolphin Duey.

But enough about me.

I want to talk about you.

I got to thinking that there may be some of you who won’t get a break this summer. While nearly everyone you know is off to some fabulous island, you won’t get a moment’s rest. For whatever reason, you won’t be able to retreat to the beach or the mountains or to wherever else makes your heart happy. We want to send a little fun and lots of love your direction so we’re doing a random give-away. And it will not include commentaries, concordances, or anything super useful or meaningful.

This giveaway is simply full of some of my personal favorite summer things including: Bobbi Brown Beach parfum (seriously smells exactly like the beach!), classic Ray-Ban aviators, Votivo Candle in White Ocean Sands, a pair of bright yellow Moleskine notebooks, Tea Forte’ Pomegranate Blackberry Iced Tea, and America’s Test Kitchen Best Summer Dessert recipes. See the contents below:

 

 

 

There are really no conditions for this giveaway. My hope, of course, is that this gift makes it into the hands of someone who simply can’t get a break this year and not someone who is heading to the Maldives or Bora Bora next week to stay in one of those little huts with glass floors sprawled across sparkling turquoise waters. But truly, if this gift brings a big smile to a single one of your faces that is quite enough for me.

So, please enter your name in the comments section if you could use a little sunshine in your world. We’ll do a random drawing and announce the winner at noon on this Thursday the 31st.

 

You are loved.

Melissa

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Living and Dying

A little over a week ago I sat in the pews of a nearby Houston church for the memorial service of a high school friend. Next to two girls I’ve known almost fifteen years, I mourned from a place so deep I feared I would drown in all the sorrow. She died at barely 29, a little over two years after she was diagnosed with the beastly disease. She and I were co-captains of our volleyball team. In those days, we had dated boys who were good friends; we went to homecoming and then prom together, in the same big ole party bus. Truth be told, we had not been particularly close or even kept in touch all these years after high school. But now all I could think about was her contagious laughter and that remarkable brightness in her eyes. I sat there in that pew trying to remember the way her hand felt when we high-fived after a good play all those years ago. I thought about how she was a fighter, both on and off the volleyball court. How, with tears, she had pulled me over to the side one day to tell me my dear friend had an addiction to prescription drugs. She wanted me to know the truth. Mostly, I so desperately wished I could have been with her just one more time.

“This sweet madness, oh this glorious sadness, that brings me to my knees.” *

We were asked to wear bright colors, teal specifically, since it signifies cervical cancer, the disease that took her. The family asked that the service be a celebration of life. But I couldn’t even celebrate much less think a coherent thought because I was just so terribly sad. They said she had been ready to go. She had been in unbearable pain. I wiped the tears from my eyes enough to watch the video montage. It physically hurt to look at those photographs flashing across the screen. I felt a piercing in my chest; I felt like I couldn’t properly hold air in my lungs.

The sharp knife of a short life.” *

A few years ago, I heard a story that shocked me at the time. Apparently a woman, maybe in her late forties, had died unexpectedly. The minister, a family friend, went, reluctantly, to relay this bitter news to her elderly mother. Well, right there in front of his eyes, the mother had a heart attack and died. The horror of this story initially surprised me but then a few months ago my Pappaw almost had a heart attack at his own brother’s funeral. Perhaps emotions are more profoundly connected to the physical body than we acknowledge.

Anyway, at the memorial service, the minister who had gotten to know my friend pretty well through her battle with cancer, said that when her life was nearing the end, when she was very much in and out of consciousness, she would suddenly, just out of nowhere, start smiling ear to ear—beaming—even raising her arms and clapping her hands.

What is going on here? My mind raced at the thought.

“When Christ shall come
With shout of acclamation
And take me home
What joy shall fill my heart” * 

Remember, in the fourth gospel, when the sisters sent a message to Jesus?

Lord, he whom you love is ill.

Jesus responds with an assuring word that Lazarus’ illness would not lead to death but rather to God’s glory and He takes his sweet time getting to Bethany. When He finally gets there Lazarus has already been in the tomb four days. “Lord,” Mary said, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus sees Mary and the others weeping over Lazarus, the text says He becomes greatly disturbed and deeply moved. The Greek verbs here are notoriously difficult; scholars puzzle over whether Jesus’ response here is an outburst of anger or a display of grief. Lots of them say Jesus is angry about the perpetual unbelief of Mary and the others. But then something happens. He asks Mary, “Where have you laid him?” Somewhere between where Mary had knelt at Jesus’ feet and Lazarus’ tomb Jesus began to weep.

Why was Jesus weeping?

Had the sadness overtaken Him all the sudden? Here, regardless of whether Jesus was angry about human unbelief or not, Jesus enters the madness of it all, the dizzying pain and confusion of human death. And the total despair of those He loved. Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Maybe Jesus also wept, in part, because he knew His own death was very soon to come. Funerals remind us of our own condition too, that our bodies will indeed be defeated by death before they’re ultimately raised to new life.

At the end of the service last week when the precious family, a family who had been through so much heartbreak, arose to walk out before the rest of us, the father stopped and looked at all of us who were either crying or staring blankly. He suddenly motioned to the hundreds of us gathered in that sanctuary, and, he began to clap. I don’t know why he was clapping. Here we were at the memorial of this man’s beloved twenty-nine year old daughter and he was clapping.

“I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up… To more than I can be.” * 

All I know is this gesture was one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure how or why it all happened the way it did but we all joined in right with him. Clapping had never felt so good. Maybe we were clapping for Lindsey’s life or maybe we were clapping for life itself. Perhaps we were clapping for all the pain that her parents had to watch, endure, and even survive. Or then again, maybe we were just clapping because God had somehow allowed us to make it through the incredible sadness of that service alive. I suppose most of us were clapping because we still seemed to have some kind of miraculous and collective hope even after all of the dumbfounding and unspeakable suffering Lindsey had endured.

“Faith still creates miracles,” her family assured us.

My two friends and I left the funeral quietly, in something of a daze. But the three of us went out to lunch, nonetheless, and there we toasted our friend. We talked about how brave she was. How she never gave up her faith and how she never grew bitter. We spoke admiringly about how much she just simply loved human existence and how so often we worry about things that just don’t matter one bit. And I couldn’t help but think about the fictional main character, the Reverend John Ames, in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, who is dying from a heart condition in the narrative. Knowing he has only a short time left, Ames writes an account for his young son. At one point he says:

 “I have been thinking about existence lately. In fact, I have been so full of admiration for existence that I have hardly been able to enjoy it properly . . . I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know any names for and then has to close its eyes again. I know this is all mere apparition compared to what awaits us, but it is only lovelier for that. There is a human beauty in it. And I can’t believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us. In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. Because I don’t imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely, and I think piety forbids me to try” (Marilynne Robinson, Gilead).

So the three of us talked and talked about how she really lived and courageously died. We spoke about how strange it felt to us that some of us die young and others of us just go right on living. I hadn’t really noticed until that moment but it turns out it was a uniquely beautiful day. Arguably one of the most beautiful days in Houston all year. I didn’t really even want it to be, honestly. I kind of wanted it to be dark, ugly, and muggy outside. Where was the rain, anyway? Instead, everything was dazzling like a thousand diamonds under a huge bright expanse. Low seventies, a tender breeze, clear skies, birds singing, butterflies dancing, everything blooming; the air everywhere was infused with fragrant magnolia. There in that moment, I couldn’t escape the downright beauty of it all, even if I had intended to.

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Please note the quotations in italics with an asterisk following were all songs played at the memorial service (Angel by Sarah McLachlan, If I Die Young by The Band Perry, How Great Thou Art as performed by Carrie Underwood, and You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban).

 

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The death of Jesus

For most of my life the Easter holiday has been all about Sunday. Well, it’s been all about the palm branches on Palm Sunday and then “Resurrection” Sunday a week later. Oh, and I suppose I have to mention the Cadbury Mini Eggs if I’m going to be honest. Let’s just say that I’m definitely giving up Cadbury Mini Eggs for Lent next year. But, seriously, the older I get the more desire I have to really journey through, as best I can, the final days of Christ’s Passion. I’m learning to pause and take each day carefully and individually.

My natural tendency is to rush through, to think already on Maundy Thursday, “But . . . Sunday’s coming!” While this is true, Resurrection Sunday does not “erase” Friday.  Hans Urs von Balthasar says: “The whole New Testament is unanimous on this point: the Cross and burial of Christ reveal their significance only in the light of the event of Easter, without which there is no Christian faith” (Mysterium Paschale, 189). Indeed, Resurrection Sunday legitimates Friday as the cosmic act of God, but it is crucial to recognize that Sunday does not obliterate the significance of Friday. In other words, Jesus’ resurrection does not render his death as theologically unimportant or unworthy of my contemplation. Not to mention, Sunday is most meaningful when we give Thursday night, Friday, and Saturday the respect they are due.

Serendipitously, a few days ago I came across a review wherein Walter Brueggemann opines that the final three days of Passion (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) “must not be homogenized but must be kept discreet and distinctive, each for its own weightiness” (Walter Brueggemann reviewing Alan E. Lewis’ Between Cross and Resurrection). I think Brueggemann may well be on to something. If you’re like me and you’re theologically inclined to move too quickly from Jesus’ death to His resurrection, perhaps for the rest of the weekend (and God willing, future Lenten seasons) we can focus on experiencing the Passion narrative as it progresses from one event to the next.

This evening imagine Jesus enduring despicable violence. I hear his plea: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” I try to imagine the unimaginable. I think of Jesus–everything that is good, pure, beautiful, and noble being defeated by the evil hideousness of human cruelty. Truth, hope, beauty, all nailed to a cross. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). Linger here before the cross; think through its implications again. No matter how many times we’ve done it.

“O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red”
(George Matheson).

What was it like for Jesus’ disciples that dreadful day? They had just eaten a meal with Jesus the night before. They gathered with him to celebrate the Passover, to remember the glorious night when the LORD had delivered Israel from Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm (Exodus 12). Now, at long last, they hoped, Jesus, the long expected Messiah, would deliver them from the hands of the Romans. “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel,” two confounded Jesus followers said on their walk to Emmaus (Luke 24:21). Jesus hadn’t come through for them in the way they expected. He died. How could the Messiah die?

Interestingly, several years after the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the apostle Paul would tell the church in Corinth: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Why so many years after Jesus’ resurrection does Paul wish to know nothing except Christ crucified? Because the cross of Christ changes the way we think about everything. Elizabeth Johnson puts it this way: “the cross turns everything upside down and makes the first last and the last first, the wise foolish and the foolish wise, and even the dead alive” (“Life Together in the Household of God” in Shaking Heaven and Earth,  100).

Likewise, in the book of Revelation, John begins to weep loudly because no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth is worthy to open the scroll (Rev. 5:4). But one of the elders tells him: “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals” (Rev. 5:5). And then, John sees; he looks between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders and he sees that the lion has been transformed and now there is a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain (Rev. 5:6). Oh what a beautiful and glorious reversal of imagery; the cross redefines power itself.  Here in the most triumphant of New Testament books, the one who has authority to open the seven seals is a slain lamb. The word of the cross is the power of God! The lion of the tribe of Judah is transformed before John’s very eyes into a slain Lamb.  Jesus’ earthly death, even post-resurrection, remains crucial to his identity as the ruler of all things.

If Jesus’ death remains crucial to his identity as cosmic ruler even after his resurrection and ascension, then we can only conclude that the cross is central, even paradigmatic, for our lives as Jesus followers. This is why Paul can say, among other things: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed . . . always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:8-10). It turns out, manifesting the life of Jesus is directly connected to carrying in our bodies the death of Jesus. Truly, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

We’ve said a few things about Good Friday but let’s also think about the significance of tomorrow, Holy Saturday, when Jesus is dead in the tomb.  We must think about what we’re saying here; we’re saying that God actually died. These are enormous theological claims and they bear immense significance. Faith and hope are non-existent from dawn to dusk. As Alan Lewis says poignantly in regard to Holy Saturday: “death is given time and space to be itself, in all its coldness and helplessness” (Alan E. Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday, 37). A disquieting thought, right? You know, God could have willed from eternity past that Jesus would be resurrected a fragment of a second after he died on the cross. But He didn’t. Holy Saturday: an entire day when God was presumably absent from the scene and no answers were offered but a mocking, chilling silence. We’re talking here about humankind having literally no hope and no confidence of redemption secured or battles won.

What is flooding your mind and heart this Passion weekend?

 

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The Mystery of the Incarnation

I love this time of year because we ponder as a church (local & universal) the nature of Christ’s person and incarnation. I’ve recently been reading through various early Christian texts, and the other day I came across a selection from a piece written by Gregory of Nazianzus in the fourth century (ca. 329-390). It struck me as a particularly gorgeous thing to read this Christmas season as we contemplate, celebrate, and worship Jesus.

The following selection is Gregory’s Oration 29.20 The Mystery of the Incarnation: A Scriptural Tapestry of Jesus as Man and God. The English translation is Rodney A. Whitacre’s own found in his book A Patristic Greek Reader (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 2007), 244-246. Whitacre’s aim is to provide a wooden-ish but readable translation from the Greek text for students who are learning to read the respective Greek portions. Please note also that the scriptural citations I have placed in parentheses here on the blog are not my own but are footnoted in Whitacre’s volume.

The Mystery of the Incarnation: A Scriptural Tapestry of Jesus as Man and God by Gregory of Nazianzus

“He was baptized (Matt. 3:13) as man, but he destroyed sins (Matt. 9:6) as God; he himself was not in need of purifying rites, but [he was baptized/he came] that he might sanctify the waters. He was tempted (Matt. 4:1) as man, but he conquered as God; not only this but he even encouraged [us] to be courageous, since he had conquered the world (John 16:33). He was hungry, but he fed thousands (John 6:10); not only this but he is indeed life-giving and heavenly bread (John 6:51). He was thirsty (John 4:7; 19:28), but he shouted, “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37); not only this but he also promised that those who believe would gush forth [with water] (John 7:38). He was tired (John 4:6), but for those who are tired and heavy laden he is rest (Matt. 11:28). He was heavy with sleep (Matt. 8:24), but he is light upon the sea; not only this but he even rebukes winds; not only this but he even makes Peter light when he is sinking (Matt. 14:25, 29; Matt. 8:26). He pays tax, but [he does so] from a fish (Matt. 17:24-27); not only this but he is even king of those demanding [the tax]. He hears himself called a Samaritan and demon-possessed (John 8:48), but he saves the one who went down from Jerusalem and fell among robbers (Luke 10:30); not only this but he is even recognized by demons (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34) and drives out demons (Matt. 8:16), and he sinks a legion of spirits (Luke 8:33) and sees the ruler of demons falling like lightning (Luke 10:18). He is stoned, but he is not caught (John 8:59). He prays (Matt. 14:23; 26:36; Heb. 5:7), but he hears [prayers] (Acts 7:59). He weeps (John 11:35), but he causes tears to cease. He asks where Lazarus [is laid] (John 11:34), for he was man, but he raises Lazarus (John 11:43), for he was God. He is sold, and very cheaply, for [it was] for thirty silver coins (Matt. 26:15), but he buys back the world, and [it was] for a great price, for [it was] for his own blood (1 Pet 1:18-19). He was led as a sheep to slaughter (Isa 53:7), but he shepherds Israel, and now, indeed, the whole inhabited world (John 10:11). [He is] silent like a lamb (Isa 53:7; Matt. 26:63), but he is the Word (John 1:1), being proclaimed by a voice of one shouting in the desert (John 1:23). He has been weakened, wounded, but he heals every disease and every infirmity (Isa. 53:5). He is lifted up upon the tree (John 12:32), he is fixed [to it] (Acts 2:23), but he restores by the tree of life (John 6:51); not only this but he saves even a robber crucified with [him] (Luke 23:43); not only this but he darkens everything that is seen (Luke 23:44). He is given cheap wine to drink (Luke 23:36), he is fed bile (Matt. 27:34). Who? The one who changed the water into wine (John 2:1-11), the destroyer of the bitter taste (Heb. 2:9), the [one who is] sweetness and all desire (Song 5:16). He hands over his life, but he has authority to take it again (John 10:18); not only this but the curtain is torn apart (Matt. 27:51); for the things above are exhibited (Cf. Rev. 11:19; 15:5) not only this but rocks are split; not only this but dead are raised beforehand (Matt. 27:51-52). He dies, but he makes alive, and by death he destroys death. He is buried, but he rises. He goes down into Hades (1 Peter 3:18-19), but he brings up souls; not only this but he goes up into heaven; not only this but he will come to judge the living and the dead . . . ” (Gregory of Nazianzus Oration 29.20, translation by Rodney A. Whitacre)

Is that not incredible?

I mean, is Jesus not incredible?!

Life can get pretty noisy and busy two weeks before Christmas. People in store aisles fight over toys (or, at least they do in the movies) and people in the church pews fight over what Christmas is really supposed to look like. BUT, even in the midst of all the noise Jesus is so fiercely compelling, isn’t He? He draws us into His life and He moves us forward, beyond the bickering and even our well-meaning but sometimes misguided sentiment and nostalgia. A forest full of white lights as big as Texas can’t hold a candle to Jesus.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
Isaiah 9:2 ESV

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1; 4-5 ESV.

O, Come Let Us Adore Him.

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A Cathartic Moment with Qoheleth on the Eve of Thanksgiving Week

A month ago I read From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun. In the introduction he makes a fascinating comment about the modern era in which we live:

“It is a very active time, full of deep concerns, but peculiarly restless, for it sees no clear lines of advance. The loss it faces is that of Possibility. The forms of art as of life seem exhausted, the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully. Repetition and frustration are the intolerable result. Boredom and fatigue are great historical forces” (Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence, xx).

Now, Barzun is writing a cultural history and I’m not interested in evaluating his argument here on the blog. And you’re thinking to yourself, “There is hope, after all!” What interests me is how similar Barzun’s critique sounds to Qoheleth (or Koheleth) in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes. Qoheleth is the English transliteration of the Hebrew noun (קֹהֶלֶת) that the author of Ecclesiastes uses to refer to himself. In fact, the English word “Ecclesiastes” is actually derived from the Greek translation (ἐκκλησιαστὴς) of the Hebrew noun (קֹהֶלֶת). The noun is most likely a title (not a proper name) and means something like assembler, teacher, or preacher.

Check out just one relevant section in Ecclesiastes (1:1-14 ESV):

1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3 What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
7 All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
8 All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.
12 I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.
14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

The gist of the paragraph is that in spite of relentless human activity, all things “under the sun” are full of weariness—they are both tiring and tired out. In the Hebrew text the biblical author’s point is strikingly clear. In verses 4-7 alone there are some fifteen active participles, suggesting that although there is a copious amount of human action, nothing fruitful really happens at all (C. Seow, Ecclesiastes, 112). While Barzun attributes this peculiar weariness primarily to the end of the modern era (and I’m not saying I agree with Barzun!), Qoheleth seems to suggest that this weariness is descriptive of human experience in general.

We often read Qoheleth and think, “What am I supposed to do with this text?” But the irony is that most of us have probably had the same thoughts as Qoheleth at one point or another. This is precisely what makes his message so powerful. Qoheleth speaks to the dark and sinister moments in our journey of faith, even if they are few and far between.

Have you ever felt like Qoheleth? Have you ever wondered after a long day of work, “Okay so what was the point of all that?” Do you ever ask yourself, “How is it that everyone is talking, nonstop talking, but no one is saying anything new or interesting?”

Sometimes we endure seasons where G.K. Chesterton is exactly right, we simply aren’t strong enough to exult in monotony (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy). We don’t want to be told to find joy in the little things because we’re simply too jaded by the overall picture. The chirping of the birds is no longer beautiful, it’s just annoying. The bubbling casserole on the stove has lost its legendary power to relieve the fatigue of the daily grind. Cleaning toilets, is well, just that, it’s cleaning toilets and it’s pretty gross. There are seasons when we become so disenchanted with human experience that the little things are, frankly, just not enough. We simply can’t make sense of how all of this is working or where all of this is going. It can get hard to push through when most folks dismiss disillusionment as madness or depression. Have you ever encountered this kind of season? Maybe I’m the only one.

What is most fascinating is that Qoheleth doesn’t solve any of this for us. Qoheleth’s teaching ends right where it began with “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity” (12:8). But the book doesn’t end at 12:8. In 12:9-14 the voice of the narrator (a second and anonymous wise man) sounds and indeed has the final word with his famous lines in v. 13:

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Now I used to think this ending was sort of anticlimactic, but now I like it. I love how the book lacks a shiny red bow but calls us to orthodox faithfulness nonetheless. Usually when I’m jaded or facing a full-on existential crisis, my tendency is to stop praying, worshipping, and meditating on Scripture. In short, I just stop doing whatever I was doing before to connect with God and His people. But when we’re questioning it all and angry with it all is precisely when we need to push back against the darkness and confusion by engaging anyway. Now, I know I’m posting these words on the eve of Thanksgiving week. I know this might strike some of you as kind of odd timing. But for those of us who are facing seasons of restlessness or dissatisfaction, Qoheleth is a powerful and cathartic read. Qoheleth gives us a canonical excuse to be a little bit cynical for just a moment without allowing us to be too self-indulgent.

I was reminded yesterday of some of my favorite words in Wendell Berry’s novel Hannah Coulter.

“We suffered the thoughts of the nights and at dawn woke up and went back to work. The world that so often had disappointed us and made us sorrowful sometimes made us happy by surprise” (Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter, 147).

Sometimes we’re not strong enough to exult in monotony, but if we continue to be engaged with the world God loves and persistent in faithfulness despite our sorrow or dissatisfaction, who knows, we might just stumble on joy.

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Just Enough

Ten years ago, before transferring to Moody and moving to Chicago ever even entered my mind, I was a little sophomore at Baylor University. One fine central Texas day I went down with a friend to a place cleverly called Waco Hall to listen to an increasingly well-known “upcoming” musician. All I knew about the musician I had gleaned from the signs scattered on walls around campus: he had really good hair.

The musician was Shaun Groves. And if I remember correctly, he had just released his first big record Invitation to Eavesdrop.  I knew, even then, after just a few minutes listening to Shaun sing, that he had a special voice. Something about him was unique. I sensed that he was a person who both thought and felt deeply about faith and the world. What I most certainly did not sense is that in less than a decade I would be bouncing around East India with a tiny group he was leading.

But in the third world together we were destined to be.

April 2009 to be exact.

On one of those blistering 125-degree days in Kolkata, Shaun and I got to talking. We were on the bus doing what theology nerds do best . . . taking ourselves far too seriously and talking about some Bible verses. We were throwing around phrases like “the new perspective on Paul” “the kingdom” “inaugurated eschatology” and whatnot. We discussed how necessary it is for us to have a holistic understanding of Scripture’s voice about wealth and poverty. We were ranting and complaining how it simply won’t do to quote one or two verses from the gospels; we need to understand everything we can about poverty and wealth in the entire canon. Only then could we really understand the Church’s mission concerning wealth and poverty. But then we got to talking about a couple of verses in the book of Proverbs. Specifically these:

Proverbs 30.7-9

Two things I ask of you;

deny them not to me before I die:

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;

give me neither poverty nor riches;

feed me with the food that is needful for me,

lest I be full and deny you

and say, “Who is the LORD?”

or lest I be poor and steal

and profane the name of my God.

Interesting verses, right? We both suspected that these verses are crucial to the Church’s conversation concerning wealth and poverty. Shaun swears that, among other things, our conversation about these verses has something to do with the song “Enough” on his new record Third World Symphony. I imagine he is grossly exaggerating but I really don’t care since it happens to be my favorite song on the album.

Enough by shaungroves

These were fun times, good conversations.

But nothing could have prepared me for the moment, just a few hours later, when the ideas in this conversation would become a human being. Kiran is the real reason Shaun wrote “Enough.”

Nothing could have prepared me for Kiran, a Compassion student who lives in one of the slums of Kolkata.

On April 30, 2009 seven members of our team crammed tightly into the home of twelve year old Kiran Mallik. The home she shares with her four other family members. Three of our team members simply couldn’t fit inside. The tiny little shack was about the size of a twin bed, approximately the size of my spare powder bath.

Here is a picture of Kiran standing outside her house.

We couldn’t stand up inside the little house so with knees and thighs touching, we kneeled around on the floor. We sat captivated by Kiran as she revealed to us who she was through a translator. She told us how much she loves Jesus, how she loves to study and hopes to become a teacher someday.

 

And then she paused.

And she asked us, with a soft and sincere smile on her face:

 “How do you like my house?”

Looking helplessly at one another, we collectively cheered:

“It’s beautiful!”

“Yes, it’s beautiful!”

She beamed in agreement and with satisfaction.

But the thing is, I really couldn’t see beauty.

What I saw on that hot April day was a flimsy little box of a house roofed with plastic paper, rocks, and sticks.

Later as we walked around the slum, Kiran would start to cry.

Tears of joy, she said. Tears because she was just so happy she had God.

Then she would literally burst forth into songs of praise. This is the stuff of the Psalms or maybe even the book of Acts. I saw these things in an Indian slum.

And all I could think about was stuff Kiran didn’t possess.

The dark, scary place we were walking around.

All Kiran could think about was that God was with her.

Where I saw tremendous lack, Kiran saw an extravagance worth displaying.

The radiant joy Kiran effused challenged the “lack” I saw.

Her intoxicating presence told me she lacked no good thing.

This was one of those remarkable moments when fixed values start to move. A paradigm shift, if you will. I had to start deconstructing and reconstructing meaning; I had to start trying to make sense of things again. Clearly I had been missing something major about basic life questions. I started posing new questions: What does it really mean to be blessed? What does it mean to have enough? Can I really trust myself to answer this former question?

Being in Kiran’s presence was something of a dream. Surreal. I felt like I was bound in chains in a dark room gazing out a window at a little girl skipping in a field of sunflowers at the brightest point of the day.

It wasn’t that Kiran was proud of what little she had. That would have been admirable, indeed. But that wasn’t it. It was the very idea that Kiran had absolutely no idea she had little. No one could have convinced Kiran she was “suffering,” not without performing some kind of lobotomy anyway. She was rich and full, living off of a couple of Compassion meals. She knocked me off my white horse. I wasn’t the one doing the liberating anymore. I never was. Maybe I had been bound all along.

The remarkable thing about the Proverbs text I mentioned before (30.7-9) is not that it mentions living in the middle of two extremes: poverty and wealth. The astonishing thing is that it links spiritual infidelity to these two extremes. In other words, living off of just enough, that which is necessary, is spiritually advantageous. At least according to the wisdom writer.

Kiran’s effortless joy, her tremendous wealth in living off the Lord alone, not only reverberates the sounds of the ancient sage; it takes the shape of a cross. Her abundant life is nothing short of cruciform. Undeniable power in perceived human weakness. And not even the thickest darkness can obstruct this kind of light. It is the overwhelming penetrating light of the cross. I was blinded by it because I couldn’t stop staring at Kiran.

My vision will never be the same.

If I close my eyes and focus long enough, I can still hear the sound of Kiran’s voice. She is singing, “Lord, I lift Your Name on High. Lord, I love to sing Your Praises.” The cadences of her voice are still in my heart.

 

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Can We Catch Up, Please?

Hey Ladies,

I was just missing you and thinking of you all and thought I would do a quick catch-up on my life since it has been so long.

Life for Colin and me over the past few months has been a bittersweet transition, a combination of missing our first home together in Atlanta and fully embracing this new season God has for us with both hands.

Here are just a couple of reasons I miss my life in Atlanta:

Friends.

Friends

Friends

And, friends. Especially friends who can cook like this one:

Here are just a couple of reasons I love my life in Houston:

Getting to know my Aunt Gay again after many years. The purest redemption I have ever witnessed.

Sunshine with Mom.

Jackson.

Watching Amanda transform into an impromptu barista at Bible Study:

Fighting with Mom over our favorite coffee cup at work.

Wearing my favorite slippers at Living Proof. They’re really feminine, right?

Tex Mex.

Tex Mex.

And, oh my goodness gracious, Tex Mex.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Thank you, Roxanne Worsham.

Watching Jackson bond with his lizard who he first named “Lizard” and then, later, “Longtail.”

Annabeth Jones.  She is too busy and wiggly to take pictures but here are a few.

She is the cutest thing on two legs.

Also, she has taken to domestic life. Who knew?

Generations before and generations after.

My Pawpaw and Memaw.  My Pawpaw is in his hard hat with his house plans watching his new house get framed exactly like he wants it.  The two of them were sitting in folding chairs watching 6 men work.  A classic moment.

And here is one very good reason I love my life no matter where I am:

In addition to the big move from Atlanta to Houston, the biggest change in my life is that I am back at the Living Proof offices writing some small segments for the James study with Mom. I was joking on Twitter the other day that I am able to write about one sentence per every fifty pages Mom writes. It is a slight exaggeration, but not much. I am a very slow writer and Mom is a machine. She has to repeatedly tell me, “Remember you don’t have to say everything to say something.” This is probably the best piece of advice I have gotten since I started the project. I think about it multiple times per hour.

Over the past several years I have grown quite comfortable with working at the research level. It is nice and convenient. I can remain detached from the conclusions and implications of the data with which I am working and can’t be held responsible since Mom is the author and I am not. I am smiling right now because I know Mom would be smiling at that comment. But, seriously, writing is a different beast. It is vulnerable. I feel stripped and exposed. I am finding that it takes a whole lot of courage. The ugly truth is I am inordinately afraid of making a mistake. And this is not humility, folks, but a very sneaky and dark form of pride.

In Madeleine L’ Engle’s reflections on writing, she quotes a few lines from Anton Chekhov’s letters that have been restorative to me in this new process: “You must once and for all give up being worried about successes and failures. Don’t let that concern you. It’s your duty to go on working steadily day by day, quite quietly, to be prepared for mistakes, which are inevitable, and for failures” (Anton Chekhov quoted in Madeleine L’ Engle, Herself, 72). Just reading that is liberating.

While I obviously think writers and teachers should think carefully through content and style, perfectionism really is incapacitating. And it can become an idol. All that to say, I am practicing the art of being patient with myself.

So, that is me and probably a lot more than you wanted to know.

How are you?

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