Monday, December 29, 2008


I dont think about this very often.

But when I do, the thoughts pester me and will not leave me alone.

Even as I write this, I want to find a way to disable comments. Positive or negative. Because what you think is not why I write this down... Use my thoughts as a catalyst for your own. Because none of us will ever get it fully right. Not in this life. Agreeing, now perhaps, is not the point. Neither is accuracy.

I write this down because of it is part of my process.

Predestination or free will?

The question is the cause and source of many angry arguments and a lot of sleepless nights. A lot of worry and apathy stem from the profound questioning...

Do we have a choice? Or is our eternity already decided for us?


My thoughts on this were tilled, turned over, on Sunday when I read a passage in John. A beautiful passage about the vulnerability of Jesus. A passage that filled my heart until I stumbled across the verse that reads:

"This is why I told you no one can come to me unless the Father enables him."

In the same breath, declaring that He knew that those who left were going to do so.


I metaphorically stumbled.


Dang it.


It was all going so well, really. I was understanding it. The words were filling me.

That phrase felt like someone had taken a pin to my balloon. Pulled the drain from the tub.

I don't like things I don't understand.

And I didn't understand this.


So I wrote my mother about it. Knowing she would give me another answer, a deeply profound and educated answer, that I would not understand. But sometimes the answers are found simply in the gesture of asking. Of laying said dilemma on the table and looking at it... until it begins to look different.

Sometimes. Not all the time.

But true in this case.


And this is simply my opinion. There is no theological or philosophical or historical substance here. That's not how I process, not how I operate.

This is my opinion, based and formed on how I feel. On my personal relationship with Jesus. On the world as a story. A love story.

And I wonder just how simply I can express all of this.

Because it is a simple story.


Maybe, just maybe, we are all predestined to love Jesus.


When the world was first created, when God first created Adam, he was created for the sheer purpose of pure community and companionship with God.

There was no question of control or who was Leader and who was Follower.

It was the way it was.

How it was meant to be.


But love is not true love if it is preprogrammed.


And God wanted us to love Him the way He loves us.

So He gave us a choice.

A choice to stay or go. A choice to love or leave.

And we left.

We turned our backs and left a brokenhearted Creator in a garden that was meant for more than one.

Like a house, only a shell without its family.


This is when our issues of control set in.

Because very quickly, sinful nature took over. Discoloring, souring the pure hearts we were born with. The righteous souls we were intended to have.

Because the selfless act of relinquishing control is not something sinners can possibly do on their own.


And the Creator found a way to restore the plan.

He knew (for He had in fact created the hearts of men) that a piece of who they were meant to be had survived.

This meant there was still hope.

For a love story.


Because we were created to love Jesus.

There is eternity set in all our hearts (ecc 3:11), whether we understand its source or purpose.


So because of our sinful nature, we must seek out the Father. In our shortcomings, where we fail, we must go to Him. And He will enable us to hear. To see. To fall in love.

And like my daddy used to say, "we should never be afraid to ask".


So Jesus turns to those who have remained.

"You don't want to leave too, do you?"

Because real love is not forced.

Maybe Jesus knew the answer.

But He did not cause Peter to stay.


We are all predestined to love Jesus.

You see, in our free will, we have turned the world on her head.

We have walked away from our divine purpose, our design.

In a way, we have defied our own hearts.


But Jesus is our second chance at a love story.

Our second chance to be with the Creator again in the garden.

To see broken hearts healed.

Because love is a choice.

The Creator of love made it to be so.


And there's something about choosing to do what you were created to do...


I stopped here.

Because I am no theologian.

And certainly no scholar.

I have not combed through the Bible and tried to understand every context or conjugation or historical application.

But I have found a truth that resonates with my heart...

on a subject I think matters very little.

A subject I may never bring up again.

Because we might all agree that we are called to love the Father and take care of His children.


Real love is a choice.

And my heart could act no more naturally.

I feel I was created for it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

sand in my hands

I have been waiting.

I am still waiting.

I have nothing more important to say than, I want this ambition to remain.

In my mind right now are hundreds are thoughts. Goals. Realistic ones. Lofty ones.

I know who I am.

Is that rare?

No, I don't think so.

I think we all know who we are.

I think most of us don't know how to be who we are.

Or, perhaps, don't like who we are.

I know who I am.

And I think I know what the next step is.

But motivation, ambition, dedication seem to be like dry sand in my hands.

I get a big handful.

And it starts to sift through my fingers. I lose it. Am left with little more than I started with...

I am tired of that.

I am tired of a lot of things.

But today, the sun is shining. And I drove with the windows down. My hair is tangled from the wind.

And I have hope that I am known. That what is inside might be able to make its way out.

You who walk beside me must help me...

it's the only way I'll make it.

Remind me. Do not let me fall stagnant. Working forty hours and running on a treadmill and waking up to an alarm clock. Don't let me accept all of this as "normal".

This life is extraordinary.

And I want to hold it in my hands long enough to see it.

Only Happy In the Sun

I want to tell you a story.

But I don't even know where to begin.

December has sent me spiraling into something that can only be called the winter blues.

I am craving sunlight. A warm breeze. Keens and a muddy trails. Sunburnt shoulders and lungs filled with fresh air.

Am I only happy in the sun?

I wish my "happiness" were not so conditional.

But here I am, holed up in darkness, because the sun has gone into hiding at an early hour.

And it is cold.

Along with cold sometimes comes bitterness.

And in the bitter cold, we find ourselves lonely.

Without the warmth of company.


Seasonal Affective Disorder.

They've given it a name.

They always give it a name.

I have given it a different name.

Diagnosed myself with separation anxiety.


Separation from creation.

From purity.

From quiet.

From the peace I've grown to find in the stillness, the bigness, of nature.

When did I become such a person?


I like this about myself.


But along with all this ice and snow and chill comes a sense of dread. Avoidance.

I seem to have lost the ability to see beauty in this season.

And that is dangerous.

Because this is a long season.


And while my heart waits for the season of singing, and I am most myself on a warm spring afternoon with bare shoulders and feet, I must remember God is here too.


Winter has frozen my words.

I have a story to tell you...

about a wedding. About loving for a hundred years. About loving the whole world. About faces as canvases. About falling in love with family. About exceeding expectations. About dancing.

But I'm all hung up on the fact that I want to lay in the grass in the sun.

So when I get over that, when this long December is over, I will find my words unthawed.

And tell you about it all...

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Each year we would put up the Christmas tree and listen to Kathy Mattea and argue about which ornaments should go where.

It was a method. Nice ornaments on top of the tree. Less important ones at the bottom where the dogs could reach. Our least favorites in the back against the wall. Fill the holes. Spread out the branches. Find a tree-topper. Turn off the lights. Go out onto the porch. Admire. In that order. Every year.


Cinnamon rolls.

Wake up too early. Force Dad out of bed. Wait for him to get out of the bathroom.

Wait some more.

He would pad into the living room in his socks.

I remember one Christmas waking up to presents piled up to the mantelpiece.

And we would take turns opening presents until they were all gone.

Then we would pile up our stuff, take it all to our respective rooms, and then fight for the showers and hot water.

Dad would warm up the car.

And we would always take the long way to Severn Way. Dressed in new clothes. Sitting in the middle and back seats of the van, cringing at Dad's choice of music.


The house at Severn would be full. With boys that weren't usually there. An uncle who knew exactly where to tickle and a beautiful aunt with lots of questions.

We would guess how long it would take Marty to show up.

And roll up our sleeves to make sausage balls and cheese balls. Enough food to feed an army. No nuts for Carter. Rationed caffeine and chocolate.

Adult conversations we couldn't be a part of.

Two tables set. Little salt and pepper shakers. Unnecessary butter knives.

Steaks grilled in the snow.

Piano playing.

Oh, piano playing.

As the years would pass, more players begin to develop in our family. We would sit in the kitchen and listen, guessing which boy was at the keys. You knew not to interrupt or to make too much noise or they would stop.

And we never wanted them to stop.


Presents would be opened. Hugs and kisses. The boys would open their gifts and start playing immediately, but the four of us would have to wait. Wait until we got home so we didn't lose pieces, Dad always said.

We would eat dinner.

And feel sleepy.

Some years we would watch the snow fall outside.

One year it stormed. Thunder and lightening on Christmas.


Then Dad would put his hand on our shoulders and squeeze. Or clap his hands. " About time to head out" meant time to go now...

We would pile back into the van. Pack the presents in.

I would fall asleep on the drive home. Warmed by the heater, lulled by the sound of grown up whispering and the distinct, deep voice on NPR.

And we would be home.

Christmas would be over.


I wouldn't get it until much later.

Get why we cried on Christmas.

Why, when the van pulled up in front of the Long Avenue house, tears would begin to pool.

Why organizing all my new stuff and crawling into bed would make me want to cry.

We call them the Christmas blues.

They're hereditary.


Christmas is nineteen days away.

I haven't bought a single gift.

Put up a single light.

Decorated a single tree.

But it is snowing this morning and I have a strange itch to try my hand at an apple stack cake.

To thieve a Kathy Mattea album from my mother and put in the Charlie Brown VHS.


The presents will not be stacked up to the mantel this year.

This year, there will be no forcing Dad out of bed. No arguing about the holes in the Christmas tree. No fighting for hot water in showers.

This year it is different.

Because things change. And so does Christmas.

People grow up. And traditions change.


Last year, I opened a card and cried on Christmas. Not because of the blues. But because something suddenly made sense.

I like it when things make sense.

For the past two Christmases I have come home to my own house to spend Christmas night. And Christmas has spread further than biological family to spiritual brothers and sisters. Christmas would not be Christmas without them, the new family.


This year I will wake up in my own bed on Christmas morning and put a few homemade and thrift store gifts for my beautiful family in my little corolla and drive to Winchester.

Find my sisters and my mother and our Steve at the Long Avenue house. Cinnamon rolls and all.

And then find myself at Severn Way. Sadly, with a few less boys. But a new beautiful aunt to spend Christmas with. And a new beautiful set of fingers to play the piano (a girl this time... we're making progress).

I hope to spend time with my dad and our Emily and three beautiful, little girls.

I am scheming.

Planning to conjure some Christmas magic.

Because magic has nothing to do with Santa Claus.


Christmastime is magical.

And no matter how much we loathe consumerism, commercialism (or any "ism" so often tacked onto the season of Advent), you cannot deny it.

In the twinkling lights and the horse drawn carriages and the soft, white snow. In sledding and days off of work and childrens' giggles. In Christmas love and mistletoe. In Christmas movies and snow angels and ice skating.


Now, while your children are still young, teach them that Christmas is not about presents stacked up to the mantelpiece.

But about making it make sense.

The ultimate gift of a Divine life.

Christmas is about awe.

And simplicity.

The revolution is found, clearly, in Charlie Brown's story.

About making broken things beautiful.

Christmas is about that.


It is that truth that makes the changes bearable.


So whether you choose to conspire, to anticipate, to participate...

make this Christmas make sense.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Connect the Dots

Our lives seem to be spent running around in chaos.

Sometimes unorganized.

Occasionally unmotivated.

Often indecisive.

We wake up each morning feeling as though the only constant is that things continue to change.

Big events send us reeling.

Or it takes ten seconds, twenty years, or three points to send us head over heels.


Most of us are at some point of uncertainty in our lives.

(Some of you are not. And you are dancing for it... in the newness and beauty of security and love. Keep dancing. It is a beautiful dance and you have earned it.)

But for those of us who are uncertain: we are dancing too.

For hope.

And love.

And to scare fear away.

We dance for cleansing rain.

And in the holy wind.


We have been told, as Christians, we will experience suffering.

I've come to understand that. And also to understand the the suffering we experience is always different. Comes in disguises and in moments we'd never expect.

But suffering is not something we should seek.

Or desire.

The pursuit of suffering leads to an identity cemented in pain, in martyrdom for martyrdom's sake.


I want you to tell me how bad it is.

That it hurts.

And it's hard.

But that it is worth it, and you'll make it because of God's grace.


As Christians we should be known for our love and be marked by our joy.

In us, others should perceive a peace that is unexplainable.

Peace, not somberness.


We should laugh.

And have others ask why we are able to.

Our answer will be the same, then.

That it is hard, but God is good.


So when times like these come and I am perched precariously on point "B", lifting my telescope to my eye in search of point "C", I am reminded of this.

That down to my core, I believe everything happens for a reason.

And that people are worth fighting for.

That we are called not to wish for peace, but to work for it, to work towards it.

That when I focus my telescope, I see my Father's Kingdom coming to earth.


Then one day I will look back from point Z and see all the points I crossed before.

And there will be a beautiful picture... a story...

Of laughter and dancing and danger and heroes and heartbreak and joy.

Because all the dots will have connected.

Then it will all make sense.

Adaptation to Touch

Close your eyes.

Hold your hand out.

You know I just put something in your hand. Resting safely in your palm.

Keep your eyes closed.

Time will pass.

And you will forget.

You will not feel the sensation of the object on your skin. You'll become adjusted to the weight. To the texture. To the temperature.

Now I take that object away.

But you don't notice.

It, whatever "it" is, has been there so long, your body doesn't notice its absence.


May you not adapt to His touch.

May you find yourself ever aware of the way He shows Himself to us....

the way our Father sings, smells, dances, whispers, bellows....

And if perhaps, one day He pulls away for a moment, I pray you would be acutely aware of His leaving.

Call His name.

He will return.

Too large to fit in your palm.

So light He is carried on the wind.