Category Archives: reverence

The Many Faces of Christmas {An Abstraction on Truth}



I tread lightly and whisper it softly, breath warming frost nipped air gathering on the tip of my nose, that we misunderstood Jesus. You may have seen this facebook status, in which I finally let loose convictions, and then I decided to allow God to use my fingertips to say what’s in the heart, here, in this journal that I am so grateful you stop by and read.

We misunderstood when he said to preach the gospel, because the gospel is pure, needs no added modern cliches, nor does it need our version of the truth added to it.

He only called us to love, and His gospel is beautiful if we just stick to it, steadfast and unflinching. Love is the hardest of all.

Our opinions come easy, and He’s asked us to lay them down and carry his cross.

I stand in a line in the cold to get some toys my girls asked for on sale. I wiggle my legs back and forth, trying to stay warm, my jeans and boots betraying me. I keep wondering if I rub the fabric briskly together, would it help, but then I’d look like an idiot, my legs and knees knocking ferociously together. So I wiggle my legs, looking as dignified as I can manage. And I shiver head to toe, all the emotion quivering inside of me. I’m so mixed up with questions, and ask myself what I’m doing in this line. Should toys be important at Christmas?

Should I let my six year old believe that Santa is bringing them on Christmas morning, as she desires to?

Advent can be a slippery thing. I want to hold it firmly in my grasp, make it work for me. But it wafts in and out of my days, elusive. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I can’t seem to figure out how I’m supposed to be going about this month.

Here’s the really hard question: does it truly matter how we celebrate Christmas?

I walk through the doors of Wal Mart, and after shopping for six, I don’t have much left, but with burning cheeks, I drop some change into the red metal box, and tell the gentleman it isn’t much but it’s all I’ve got. He takes his ear buds out and pulls them from around his bundled up garb and he tells me he doesn’t need my dollar bills; it’s the pennies and nickles and dimes that make the difference for people who had a fire destroy their home and need the basics, or for little children who don’t have coats or toys for Christmas. I peer right past his black skin, look into his eyes, and see gentleness there. There are hard lines in his face, but they only tell a story of experience because there is a lot of care in the crevices.

He tells me that he stands there for hours, and he sees people walk by and smirk his direction, as if they’re agitated someone is asking them for money. He tells me we shouldn’t judge someone in need, because we never know when *we* will be that person, and we will need help. We exchange a couple of stories, wish one another a merry christmas, and then we are off to stuff the back of the SUV full of food.

                                                                    photo credit

The gentleman, he continues to silently shake his bell. He doesn’t say a word, just keeps doing what he believes is right.

Does Christ need us to shout his name at Christmas? Keep the Christ in Christmas. Keep the Christ in Christmas, we say. 

I think of him silent when he turns over the tables in the temple, silent when he stands before Pilot.

I’m at my friend, Diane Bailey’s blog today. Please follow me over there for the rest of this Christmas story?

                                                               photo credit

What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.

A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is Truth


**{This link up will run for more than 7 days, until after Christmas, giving you plenty of time to write while you are shopping, cooking, enjoying the holiday with family. I will be taking a long break and will read your stories and highlight one of them on social media on Monday, the 30th. On the 30th, the prompt will be Fire.}

Advertisements

Of Things Unseen {An Abstraction on the Cup}

I cannot say how pleased I am to have Kelli Woodford, my dear friend, here today to guest-write for Concrete Words. Her quiet, searching heart stirs me deep. I hope her words move you as much as they do me. And please, be sure to show her some lovin’ for her words here. 





The styrofoam is warm in my hands. It imprints on my fingertips, a liquid story of contents unseen. 

Steam rises like prayers, fogging out the world as I draw the cup close, closer to my lips. I inhale the fluid decadence. Wishing I could ingest it just as slowly, as tangibly, as it escapes–wafting upward, upward. Always the scent lingering somewhere on the edges of time. I close my eyes. 

A chair skids loud across the flecked tile floor. It wakes me from my drifting. 

To the left, three men sit at a table set for four. One is slick bald. He looks like a preacher to me. Oh, not a preacher-comb-the-hair-over, wear-a-tie, King-Jimmy-in-hand preacher, but one of these cool guy preachers. The kind that sport those trendy, dark-rimmed glasses and the baldness without looking older than 40. 

I run the top of my middle finger along the rim of my cup. Circling, circling. My coffee is still too hot to drink, but I’ve nothing to do but sit with it and with my imagination. A mind at play among the rising fog. 

Their conversation is too low for me to make out, and I’m glad I don’t hear it. I think I’d rather invent it. Bits and pieces, that’s all we know, I wonder if he’s saying. As a preacher, I have a responsibility to proclaim what I believe, but God help me if I don’t spend just as much time with my hand clapped over my mouth, aghast at what great folly it is to ever speak with absolute certainty about God Almighty. He is not a tame Lion. No, no…

My imagination runs wild with the hope of what it would be to hear a preacher admit his finite understanding of God. To say what he knows as freely and gently as if whispered over a casket–instead of boisterous and aggressive, as if a little too used to the amplification of a microphone and stage lights. To give respect to the Mystery of all that defies explanation, instead of putting Eternity in a systematic box. But I know it’s just my experience talking. He’s leaning forward now, toward the others. Whatever he’s saying, it’s clear that he means it with all his heart. 

Velvet fingers, mine, stir serendipity into the coffee, sugar melting, sweet and silent. 

And I sense an opening. It’s deep in me. 

Something creaks as mercies widen, unseen changes afoot. 

I raise my cup and lock eyes with the dark-rimmed stranger over yawning styrofoam. His lips and mine receive the contents poured into our respective open spaces. The misty prayers that rise with this touch to my face are less selfish somehow, and more generous. I see his nerves. They play the surface of his face like a guitar solo. He doesn’t see me, I know now. He is looking at them, at himself. He feels the weight of this responsibility. For he holds something heavier in his hand than the cup from which he sips. 

And he deserves, not my contempt, but my compassion. It might not be wine of the covenant, but I feel the solidarity of our drink in tandem. I feel the words spoken in my narrowed places, now more open that empathy has done her work:

Take, drink, this is my blood, shed for you … do this in remembrance. 

I whisper back, the echoes of another prayer uttered long ago, 

and the sound ricochets inside my cup, which now runneth over. 

That we may be one, Lord Jesus, 

that we may be one. 



12-12-2013.JPG
ABOUT KELLI WOODFORD
Kelli hopes never to recover from the mighty mercy she has been shown. Although her life is now filled with more diapers than she’d like to count, she carves time out to write about finding God in the simple and the frustrating at Chronicles of Grace. 



****************
Gratitude: {1109-1118}…
yellow and purple irises blooming in the yard :: how grown up my 12-year-old is–her intuition and quiet nature that are a gift to me :: my little one lying in bed with me in early morning and nuzzling up against my face with her cheek :: shafts of light across the couch :: beauty of early morning sun :: a cozy blanket and warm coffee :: my bible :: the comforting sound of clean, running water :: the cute sneezes of a certain 3-year-old

{This post shared with Ann, Laura, and Michelle} 

*************

***Dear readers, I had a conversation with the ever-sweet Amber Haines, and her handing over Concrete Words to me is meant to be a permanent deal. sixinthesticks will now be it’s home for good. Amber has said she can no longer do it on her blog. She has asked me to take it and run with it, change it up, make it my own. I hope those of you who have been with Amber the whole time will be along for this wild, fun ride! I’ve never had so much fun with writing!! 
     
**************


What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.

A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising, or
                                             sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is the Cup

**Starting next week, Concrete Words will be going live every Sunday evening, sometime between 7 and 10 pm. I cannot promise an exact time, as my weekends are very spontaneous and I’m a little bit of a roving rebel.
The prompt next week is the Afternoon.{I’ll highlight a beautiful post on Friday (and announce it on social media), so come back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!}


When Your Voice Is Silent {Fear Day 26}

This week, I’m working out fears in my marriage {And I haven’t even begun to touch it, I think–is that ever a deep well. But God. Come back tomorrow for a few thoughts on growing old in marriage}.

And on Fridays, I link up with Lisa-Jo at lisajobaker.com  for a sort of flash writing mob–and I write for five minutes, no editing, back-tracking, or over-thinking, with just a one-word prompt. If you’d like to join, find Lisa-Jo’s button below…



GO.

Sometimes the voice is silent within
My real voice
You only hear me when I get angry, Love
Words of frustration come out louder
But inside there is a deep well of silence
Of things unsaid between us
Things I don’t know how to say
I pray for voice to come out wise and strong
I ask Heaven for peace to reign in this tongue
There are so many things silent, Love
And perhaps some things are better left unsaid
There will be a time for all of this inside of me to unfurl
But I came from tongues that knew no bounds,
Voices that always had to be heard
Making their wounds on their exact mark
And God has gently led, quieted me some
And in the dark, here in the thick of it, in the sweltering
I lay here with you and I give myself over to you
In the quiet, in the gentle peace of it
In the quaking, and the making of love so powerful on holy ground
And I take my shoes off,
And I lament who I’ve been, and repent of my hard heart
And I give myself over, Love.

STOP.

{Today’s one-word prompt was Voice.}
If you’d like to join our writing flash mob? Click below…

Five Minute Friday

 

Also linking up with The Nester, and all the other 31-Dayers.…This ought to be one wild, brave ride…

Do you struggle with fear– of no having voice in your marriage–is it something you see God teaching you wisdom in–the tongue? Is marriage not turning out quite like you thought? Please tell me your story? Have you seen God redeem these fears in your marriage? Have you found grace? Your comments so encourage me. I draw strength from your kind words and knowing you were here. My faith walk is seasoned with the right ingredients when you hang around…


This is one post in a series of 31 days of Fear. You can find the entire 31 Day collective here. {I’ve jumped from Day 12 to Day 22 because I want to finish this series at the end of the month & this gal started late}

I hope you will come with me on this journey–to get a taste of glorious redemption as I soul-search and look for Jesus smack-dab in the middle of my fears. And Jesus sits with sinners. I won’t have to look very far.

I pray God gives me the strength and the courage to complete 31 days–y’all, it’s going to be hard on this ‘ol gal to write every.single.day. Pray for me?   

Some other 31 Day collectives I’m loving: Shelly @ Redemptions BeautyAmber Haines , and Lisa-Jo

The Synapses of My Heart {31 Days to Holistic Christ-Centered Living Day#17}



I rock Lilly, holding her close in the dark, I lay my cheek on her silky hair, sing her a lullaby. I lay her down and step just a few feet away to tuck in a little one, snuggle her in with Monkey tightly.

And then as I am about to leave, Lilly cries, and I know that cry–she is frustrated. Her blanket is twisted wrong, so I go back to her to soothe.

I wrap her in her puppy blanket the way a Mama knows how.

I shut the door, but pause and peek through the crack, watch my four year old falling asleep, her lying there all perfect angelic creature, the wheat crown of her poking up out of covers.

Something in me grows very quiet and still and sad andI wonder how I will remember all this.

I want to remember it just like this with the wooden train and dolls strewn about over pine floors, the woven rugs, the squeaky rocking chair wih it’s handmade pink crocheted blanket thrown over the back, and their golden little heads lying in dreams, their tiny hands clutching lovies.

I want to remember Bella’s voice just as it rings with sweetness now, that little lisp and those deep dimples and I want to remember Lilly’s giggles sounding like Heaven..

I let the wonder and glory just settle right down all around me.

Even the angels are in awe of God’s children, how we are made in the image of His diety, how He loved us to the earth and back, how He adores us and spins wildly over us.

This extends far below the surface of me and I am in hushed admiration too, reverence anchoring me, pausing here in the darkness, in the silence, imprinting this moment upon the synapses of my heart.

Gratitude:


3 gifts found in Christ…
#502 freedom, my chains gone
#503 amazing grace pouring over me
#504 the cross that redeemed me back to God, that gives me strength every day

#505 the way Ivy and Bella lie on yoga mats when Lorna and I are done exercising, and Ivy says, “Look Mama, I’m doing my yoga!” always wanting my approval, needing my nod and smile that says she is okay in this world

2 things blue…
#506 A young Mary and baby Jesus painted in shades of blue on Husband’s canvas
#507 my baby girls blue eyes squinting and laughing at me with so much mischievousness

#508 how I go in there to teach them the downward dog and the cobra and the little one–in her diaper–grunts at me to show her too, her head and hands sprawled on the floor, bum sticking straight up in the air

one grace borrowed, one found, one inherited…
#509 the long-awaited, very much needed vehicle that is coming through Husband’s work
#510 daughter finding her father’s weight bar hidden behind the stack of VCR tapes and his smile and thank you.
#511 my ability to do anything well with my hands, the precise line I can stroke with paint like my Daddy

#512 when we are reading Stepping Heavenward at bedtime, and I explain that when Katherine was upset at her Aunty’s injustice, it meant she felt her Aunty was being unfair, and Lorna says, “Yeah, I know how that feels.”

a gift before 9 am, gift before noon, a gift after dark…
#513 Husband making coffee for me, waking to the glorious smell of cinnamon buns, eggs and sausage
#514 a talk with my Pastor letting him know in this season of our lives we won’t be at church every week, and the grace he extended, taking the pressure off
#515 Husband and I in our room creating together, conversation as we drift off to sleep

#516 Lorna’s perceptiveness when I say Lilly is a sweet baby, “Well, she isn’t always sweet; sometimes she’s sour.”

#517 Bella coming to me with her request: “Mama, can you fix the game? I’m too little.”

3 gifts that might never have been…
#518 my wonderful Husband, so thankful that God held us together strong through the years
#519 our new church body, how much we are growing, learning, grateful we made the move and decided to stay…maybe we are finally home
#520 Husband allowing me to homeschool…though it has it’s trudging trials, in the end I will one day see all the benefits…this I know

#521 When Bella pops in my bed at 7:15 am, and asks to play a game and I answer her that she will have to wait until I get up, how she catches me off gaurd and says, “No, when you get up, you’ll need a story, and you’ll read th bible again and again and again.”

#522 How Bella says “Wakey, wakey” in a sing-song voice to get me up.

3 graces found in your friends…
#523 my best friend driving to my house before noon to workout and have lunch together
#524 the miraculous wonder of a friendship broken and wounded being restored in Christ through grace and forgiveness
#525 my running buddy being gracious when my body is in pain on a bad day

#526 How when I tickle Bella all over, she yells, “I love you! I love you! I love you!” between giggles

#527 Ivy running inside to tell me of a great mystery she has solved, “Mama! I know who is shutting the mailbox so hard–it’s the mailman! And there are more yellow flowers out there–lots of them!” The way she forces me to see there are gifts right in front of me all the time.

a song heard, a soft word, where i saw light…
#528 everyone singing “How Great Is Our God” in corporate body worship, how it reminds me of us all singing in Heaven, and if we have someone to sing it with, how it makes the faith more real
#529 Husband’s “I’m sorry” and how it releases me and lets me exhale

#530 light streaming in through window, in shafts across a book on bedside table

#531 when we’re working outside and I get covered in ants and yell out to everyone that only sweet Ivy came to help, Lorna says, “Well, you’re an adult and they’re only little ants.”

#532 how when I tell Lorna that since I was covered in them, I couldn’t see them to get them off, Ivy pipes up with, “You have a point, Mama.” and then, “You know, I was born to care about people.”

an old thing seen new…
#533 Husband’s face, the same one I’ve seen for 11 years, and yet sometimes when I look at him, it’s for the first time and I fall in love all over again

#534 how when we are sitting at the breakfast table and I’m trying to read something beautiful to them and everyone is scuffling around, getting up, not listening, I shoot a frustrated glance at Husband, and say some exasperated words, and Ivy says, “You know we can all apologize sometimes.” And my heart is pierced straight through. Out of the mouths of babes.