The Woman at the Cross

Painting: The Three Marys

She stared at the man on the cross. Romans. Only the Romans would do this. Blood dripping. She could see the lash marks curling across the sides of his ribs from his back. Disgusting dogs Worse than dogs. Dogs had honor. She shuddered and lowered her eyes, avoiding the sight of him. She’d heard a rumor that Pontius Pilate the Roman Prefect had actually found him innocent at the trial and it was really their own elders who’d decided he needed to die anyway.

Dark clouds had rolled in without her noticing, covering the sun. It looked like a thunderstorm coming. The air felt heavy and there was a greasy yellow tone to the light. Stormlight. She wrapped her arms around herself and edged closer to the group of women nearby. She knew one of them was his mother. How can she stand it, watching? But here she was, waiting. For what? None of them knew what was going to happen next, but the tension was palpable. They were all waiting for something to happen.

This man, this Jesus bar Joseph, was the one people had said would save them from the occupiers and restore their nation, their own kingdom, where they would be answerable only to themselves. He had worked miracles, given speeches on the sidewalk, been announced by Crazy John. But clearly they were wrong. Look at him. Helpless. Dying. No savior he. And yet, she wondered.

His eyes. He had the kindest eyes she’d ever seen. She remembered him standing in the square saying he was sent to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and to set the oppressed free. Well, they were certainly the oppressed. She glanced sideways at the sword and dagger hanging from the belt of the nearby soldier. The soldiers missed no opportunity to “keep order” as they called it.

And the miracles. She’d heard of the healings this man had done–great, unexplainable things. She’d even seen one in person. She had watched, transfixed, as he reached out his hand and touched a crippled woman. The woman got to her feet slowly and shakily, hanging on to Jesus’ hand. She took an uncertain step, and then another, then paused and stretched up on her toes. She swayed for a moment, and the crowd held their breath. Was this the healing that wasn’t going to take? The one that would expose him as a fraud? The woman looked like she was sinking to her knees, but then with a joyful shout, she launched herself into the air, off the ground, gleeful. She landed with clap of her hands, and whirled around to face Jesus. Jesus grasped her hand and sent the woman on her way, dancing.

His eyes. She stared at him in awe and Jesus’ eyes caught hers through the crowd. Embarrassed to be caught staring she lowered her eyes and pulled her scarf closer around her face, but not before she’d seen him smile and wink at her.

There was a time long ago when she could have approached him to speak to him. In the ancient days, women could appear in public, do business, buy and sell, and have lives outside their fathers’ or husbands’ homes. There were female prophets, judges, women of business and standing. But those days were long gone. Most women were now not even literate; it was not important for them to read the Law; they just had to believe what their fathers and husbands told them of it.

But her father believed in the old ways and had taught her to read for herself. She knew what the old scrolls said about a savior coming, a Messiah, who would be born in Bethlehem, become a refugee, heal many people, and lead them all to a victorious nationhood. Was this the one? She knew he met all the qualifications, but, miracle working abilities aside, he was so mild. He didn’t seem much like a warrior. She saw the kindness in his eyes and the judgement in the eyes of the Pharisees and elders. She had heard Jesus call himself the Lamb and she thought about the old story of the ancients fleeing Egypt, saved after painting their door trim with the lamb’s blood; the same lamb they roasted and ate for every Passover since. This Jesus claimed to be the son of God. Blasphemy surely. Or insanity. Unless it were true.

But now look at him. Miracles long behind him, he was nailed to a Roman cross outside the city. Dying. Dying along with their hopes and dreams. But hadn’t she also heard him say he would die, but would rise again? Or was that the temple? Neither made any sense. It wasn’t possible. Tears gathered in her eyes. It was hopeless.

From the corner of her eye, she saw Jesus move slightly and lift his head. She tensed and looked up. Was something going to happen? He lifted his head and seemed to look right at her. This time she didn’t look away. His right eye twitched once. She was startled. He kept looking at her and again his eye twitched and a corner of his mouth lifted. That time she was sure. He’d just winked at her. What in the world–?

Thunder rolled and rain began to pelt down. She shivered. The crowds at the execution site started to disperse, people hurrying back down the hill toward shelter. The little knot of women didn’t move. She moved yet closer to them. One of them grasped her arm. “Did you know him?” she asked tearfully.

She shook her head no. Yes. I don’t know him. But I feel like I do. Thunder crashed, then suddenly died away and the rain softened. A loud cry rent the sudden silence.

“Mashelem!”

Finished!

Jesus slumped over. She could no longer see his battered chest rising and falling, however slightly, with his shallow breaths.

It can’t be shelem. There was too much missing!

A wail came from the knot of women as they mourned. The sound followed her as she turn and slowly walked back home in the falling rain.

She couldn’t sleep. When she closed her eyes, all she could see was the dying man winking at her. That tension she’d felt Friday, that feeling of waiting was still with her. Did the Romans still think there might be an uprising? Was there another scapegoat they could collar and execute? She worried about her father, their neighbors, the members of the opposition groups. Today was the day after the sabbath and she knew some of the women were taking sacred spices to Jesus’ grave. She wanted to go with them, although she hadn’t been invited. She left the house silently and walked toward the rocky cemetery at the edge of the city. She found the group of women near the gate and joined them without a word. With swollen eyes, they silently nodded at her. She realized these were some of his closest friends and paused, feeling like an intruder. One looked back at her and as she hesitated, extended her hand. “Come with us,” she said. “It’s fine.”

They trudged slowly down the trail to the large tomb in the hillside. She didn’t know what they expected to find, but the gaping hole in the tomb made them pause. The boulder that should have been blocking the door was lying to one side. They stopped and stared at the doorway, then Mary –she thought it was Mary, at least– took a deep breath and cautiously entered. She returned almost immediately and gasped, “He’s gone!”

Gone! She felt sick. Romans. Now they were robbing graves. Sick. A rustling behind them made them turn quickly. A man was approaching from the far side of the cemetery. She squinted at him. He was Jewish, at least, not Roman.

“Shalom,” he said. “You look confused. Can I help you?” They gaped at him. Was this the caretaker of the cemetery? Surely not. Surely it was…she looked at him closely. Those eyes. Those kind eyes caught hers, and he winked.

Laughing Jesus

Mashelem: http://www.chaimbentorah.com/2017/08/word-study-it-is-finished/

If We Should Ever Grow Brave

I’ve been drifting downstream for a while now. I bravely jumped into the new almost two years ago and left Whatcom County for Idaho but my bravery has deserted me-or I ditched it somewhere–and I’m back to drifting downstream, following the path of least resistance, not looking for challenges–intellectual, personal, anything else.

The quote above is from Joy Davidman, an American writer who married a well known English writer/professor/lay theologian. I don’t yet know enough about her story to know what really made her brave, other than she reached out to this fellow writer, moved to England, married him, and then soon after died of cancer. That’s enough. Any one of those things are brave. Any one of those things I would be reluctant to do, although I say I want to do the first two (write and move to England). The third, marrying an Englishman, would be an unbelievable super-bonus.

There is no doubt there are seasons where all you can do is hang on by your fingernails and survive. But that desire to thrive never quite goes away. It hangs out in the background, emanating disapproval when I come home from work and watch another episode of Grace and Frankie and play another game of Candy Crush or worst of all, mindlessly scroll Facebook instead of doing–what? Anything. Learning something. Trying something. Failing at something.

The self-sabotage struggle is real. What would happen indeed if I was brave enough to do ALL the things I imagine? What if I was brave enough to stop filling my days with fluff and filler? What if I stopped seeing obstacles and started seeing opportunities for faith and opportunities for growth. What if I wrote down all the things I wanted to stay to you here and clicked “Publish?” What if I could spell out everything in my heart? Would I be grow brave enough?

What would you do if you should ever grow brave?

Word.

Your word, Oh Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Psalm 119:89

I think I grew up hearing a lot about the Unchanging Word of the Lord and hearing this verse quoted. I always pictured the words of the Lord, in scroll or book form, unchanged from their original writing, acting as a reference book in a library. “Well, let’s see what the Word of the Lord says about that, shall we?” an angel might say. Then they’d pick up this enormous book in heaven, flip to the reference, and quote the verse. See? they would say. That’s what it says. They’d probably jab a finger at the page for good measure. And the Unchanging Word of the Lord was, of course, always in King James’ English, and it was the version that said women have to wear dresses and have long hair, and a bunch of other stuff like that.

The Unchanging Word of the Lord in my imagination looked something like this:

Enormous antique leather-bound Bible

Very old Bible from the Antique World Mall in Boise

 

Or this:

ChoirBook1

Illustrated Choir Book from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London

Huge Choir Book

The Choir Book with Michelle for scale

But about a year ago, someone at church made a comment about translations and God’s word and I suddenly had a moment of clarity. My idea about the Unchanging Word was completely wrong. The unchanging word wasn’t the word at all – it was The Word, something else entirely, something far better than a carefully copied scroll, something far better than even the first edition of the scroll because it was someone, not something. The word of God that’s standing firm in the heaven is the original, uncreated, unspoken Manuscript, the Man himself, the Word in the beginning – Jesus himself from John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Jesus, the original uncreated Word, unmuffled, untranslated, unconfused by the constraints of human language. God’s principles are firm and unshakeable and His words are the ultimate signifier and signified in one. His principles are Jesus Himself, God’s word made human, embodied.

It amazes me that we humans can communicate at all when so often we can’t even agree on what the individual words themselves mean. I can’t count the number of times I hear two people trying to have a conversation, but talking at cross purposes, their meanings flying by each other, and each one getting more and more frustrated at the other’s denseness. We need a personal translator to tag along with us every day.  And that’s just trying to talk to each other about our day to day. Forget trying to have a conversation with significance. Or a conversation on a first date. It’s hopeless.

So until that day when we return to a linguistic Eden, know that the very least we are known and fully understood by the Eternal Word, if no one else.

Jehovah Rapha, The God Who Heals

Disclaimer: This post began as a session of a women’s Bible Study on the names of God at Westside Bible Church. I tried to adapt it from an outline; I never realized how hard it would be to turn an outline into a written narrative. So when it doesn’t make sense, that’s why.

Disclaimer 2: I hate disclaimers and think people should just put their stuff out there and let it live. That’s also harder than expected.

 

Exodus 15: 22-26: 22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah. So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.

There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am JEHOVAH RAPHA [the Lord, who heals you.]”

Although I met Jesus as my savior over 20 years ago, I didn’t meet the God of Grace and God my Healer until 8 or 9 years ago.  Some of the story is here; the very short version is, the rug was jerked out from under me when my husband of almost three years told me one day he didn’t want to be married anymore and that he’d been sleeping with someone else for half our marriage.

I found a Christian counselor who accepted my Aetna insurance and I saw her weekly for six or eight weeks, when she had to suddenly move out of town for a job transfer. At the same time, a woman at church had stepped, unknowingly, into the gap. She opened the floodgates when one Sunday morning she innocently asked how I was and instead of answering, I burst into tears.  I started going to a divorce support group where I met other people–men and women–who were in the same situation. And by the grace of Jehovah Rapha, my heart and soul healed over time. Praise God! Once healed, healed forever. End of story. Nothing will break again, right?

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147_3

I told my story at a women’s Bible study on the Names of God. And throughout my little talk on our Jehovah Rapha, our God who heals, with all its triumphant bullet points, I ignored the enormous elephant in the room – all the times God has apparently neglected His healing promise. My mom died of breast cancer; He didn’t heal her. Marriages fall apart; He failed to heal mine and many others. Families are estranged; He’s not healing those relationships. And worst of all, a woman I know lost two of her sons to a rare genetic disorder and her third son to suicide. How could God not heal even one of these kids? Everywhere around people are covered with visible scars and open wounds. Our complete healing will happen in God’s time, not ours. But in the meantime, what kind of Healer lets all of a couple’s children die? What kind of Healer doesn’t heal?

All I could do in my situation was to take responsibility for my own part, leave the rest ot God, and believe that all will ultimately be done for our good and His glory. If I was not broken, I would not have met the true God of Grace. And that alone made the entire experience – the marriage and the divorce, worthwhile. I don’t know why He hasn’t (yet) healed your brokenness – ask Him. In the meantime, He at least understands; He’s been there.

“But please, please – won’t you- can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?” Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now in his despair, he looked up, at his face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion really must be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself. My son, my son, said Aslan. I know. Grief is great.” The Magician’s Nephew, C.S. Lewis

Back to that plaintive howl I’ve heard from believers and non believers alike: What kind of God allows such evil/what kind of Healer doesn’t heal?

I don’t know the full answer, but I know that he is a God and a Healer whose ways are so far beyond ours that we’re just unable to comprehend. My mom is completely healed in heaven, and she wouldn’t come back here even if she could, nor would I bring her back. Those three sons are together in heaven, physically, mentally, and emotionally completely whole. And they’re all hanging out with Jesus. Now, Jesus is working on healing those of us who remain behind. We’re the broken ones; the ones already home are completely whole with minds and bodies as God originally intended.

Sin is rampant in the world – millennia upon millennia of sin upon sin, contaminating our entire universe right down to each cell in our bodies. The consequences of the Fall overwhelm us in our human fragility. Relationships and family healing require buy-in from multiple parties. God rarely makes people do things they don’t want to do.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147_3

But, He doesn’t tend to heal us if we don’t want to be healed. In my year or two as a DivorceCare facilitator, I met men and women who were determined to avoid the Healer. And I totally get it–it‘s a lot easier to be angry and to nurture bitterness than to let it go and let God deal with that wicked evil hopeless sinner you used to be married to. God for sure wasn’t going to deal with him/her correctly – He’d probably offer them grace and love when what they deserved was to have a can of whoop-ass revenge of biblical proportions opened up upon them. 

So it’s first up to me to look for my healing, and to ask for it–from Himself, from his appointees (pastors, mentors, people who’ve been there), from professionals (doctors, therapists, etc). 

Fear and pride can keep us from looking for healing; healing from a broken heart is a long road and I for one encountered some unpleasant truths about myself along the way. Yeah, it hurt a lot more before it got better. But worse, the danger of not looking for healing is the temptation to define myself by my suffering. Hello darkness my old friend; I’ve come to talk with you again. The darkness, the anger, bitterness is at least familiar, and because it’s familiar, it’s comforting. Who might I be if I was whole and healthy? I might not be myself anymore. What if I go through this healing process and nothing changes and I’m still miserable? Or, what if I try and God lets me down? Paul asked God three times for healing from his unnamed issue and God said no. If God says no to Paul, why would he say yes to me?

Healing looks different for everyone. Some people are healed from cancer, from depression. Marriages are restored. And for the rest of us…we’ve already been healed in the greater sense, but as long as we’re here on Earth, we’ll just keep breaking; we’ll always be in need of healing, and He will provide that; it just might not look the way we expect.

What’s the Worst that Could Happen?

Take a chanceWhat's the (2)

Isle of Skye, 2015

What’s the worst that could happen? I shrug as I say it.

I threw myself down a snow-covered mountain with two skinny boards strapped to my feet. You could break a leg. Oh well, I have insurance.

skier

A random skier, not me. Even gentle slopes feel like you’re schussing down the tallest hill ever. Pixbay.com

I hurled myself across a gorge, dangling upside down hundreds of feet in the air, dangling by a thin wire cable attached to another thin wire cable. The zipline could break and you’d die. Oh well, I’d wake up in heaven.

Zipline

Random guy on Whistler zipline. Whistler.com

I left my job of fifteen years and moved 600 miles to another state. You might not get another job and end up homeless and broke and have to move in with your family and be a complete loser and fail at everything you ever tried. Oh well, I guess we’ll see.

Taking chances doesn’t come naturally. I’ve never been a high-adrenaline risk taker and for most of my life, I’ve only taken the safe routes. The unknown has potholes, mean dogs, and weirdos. But once the worst thing you can think of has happened to you and you survive it, taking risks suddenly seems a lot less risky. You go around the potholes; the mean dogs aren’t as mean as they look; and the weirdos turn out to be just like you.

So after eighteen years of living in Whatcom County and fifteen years at a job I mostly loved and only rarely hated, when the opportunity came to leave my comfortable, safe, uneventful life, I took it. On the 600 mile drive to my new home, I thought, why not keep going? Why stop here? Well, says this crazy risk-taker, it’s the safe space. It’s where most of my family lives. It’s a baby step, okay?

So for now, I’m taking a little chance on Idaho. What will you take a chance on today?

Disclaimer: As a reader and writer, I know that when a character asks, “What’s the worst that can happen?” something far worse than they imagine is about to occur. But real life rarely plays out like a well-plotted story. 

In real life, the phrase to watch out for is “Hold my beer.”

Ok, that’s my post for the year. Hope to see you again before another year goes by.

 

 

I Heard the Bells…

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote these words during the American Civil War after his son was injured in battle in 1863. A country divided by racial issues and economic and political ideology then, and one hundred and fifty two years later….he may as well have written it yesterday.

640px-Battle_of_Antietam_by_Thulstrup

“Battle of Antietam” by Thure de Thulstrup

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Fifty years later, the world was embroiled in the first World War. By Christmastime men had been sitting in trenches for months, shooting at and killing each other but gaining no ground despite assurances from the top that the war would be over by the new year.

1200px-No-man's-land-flanders-field

No Man’s Land/Flanders Field – William Lester King

Bodies lay for weeks in the “no man’s land” between the German and British lines. Anyone attempting to pick them up for burial would be killed. It was freezing cold and the trenches were filled with ice water and mud. Hate and despair were strong.

But on Christmas Eve, something happened. The sound of carols drifted across from the German trenches. A candle-lit Christmas tree popped up above the trench. The British didn’t shoot it down and other trees joined it. A brave soul walked tentatively into the no man’s land waving a white handkerchief. Men from both sides met in the no man’s land. They buried their dead, exchanged cigarettes, Christmas treats, and souvenir items.

1200px-Illustrated_London_News_-_Christmas_Truce_1914

“British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches.”  Illustrated London News – Christmas Truce 1914 by AC Michael – The Guardian. Orig published in The Illustrated London News, January 9, 1915

The men discovered the propaganda was wrong–the others weren’t monsters, weren’t inhuman; they were just like them–German, Indian, British, French, Scots–cold, miserable, just wanting to go home.

Proof of the fact that hate is strong and mocks the song is apparent every time I turn on the internet. It’s easy to give in to the fear – to be so fearful that we lock ourselves into an armed bunker either physically or emotionally, and refuse to let anyone else in –into our country, our home, our heart.

Decades of war later, what’s changed? Hate is still strong. Fear is still rampant. People cry for more weapons, more walls, more so-called safety and security. But what are we afraid of? We already know how the story ends. We may be persecuted, hurt, terrorized, but we know the story ends in triumph. God already told us that. The bells ring loudly every day we care to listen–God’s not dead, nor is he asleep! Go(o)d wins!

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

I’m not Racist, but…

skintones

When I heard about the killings of nine people at the Charleston, South Carolina  AME church, I was sure that it was one-off situation, that the killer was just a solitary nutjob. I was sure that most Americans are not racist; this killer was just one lonely guy looking for his own private revolution that no one else cared about. But in the weeks that followed I remembered some disturbing comments from several different friends and acquaintances: “Mexicans are stupid.” “Blacks are the laziest people.” “Back east, it’s just like it used to be here – no Orientals.”

I’ve always believed that that institutionalized and personalized racism would gradually disappear as the generations of those who were in power and who therefore set the cultural tone died off. I can understand how people coming of age during a time of segregation absorb the beliefs of the culture around them; it is a rare individual who transcends the culture they’re born into. But that doesn’t appear to be happening as quickly as could be desired, to put it mildly.

These were not elderly people making those almost comically ignorant statements above – they were men in their early 50’s. White men raised in small towns on the West Coast and the Midwest. Good, decent, hardworking men, who nonetheless had enormous blind spots. The Charleston killer wanted to bring all the festering racial hatred out into the light in order to start a race war. I was sure he was wrong, that there was no festering racial hatred, but I begin to think I might be wrong. Hatred is strong word, but so are “stupid” and “lazy” when applied to an entire group of people.

But the thing is, when you keep yourself in a place where you don’t interact with people of different races, they remain Other–mysterious and scary.  My sister posted a fantastic, and fairly disturbing, article called “I, Racist” a while back. It’s disturbing because it’s so true. Take the time to read it – it distilled some vague suspicions I had about myself and my own attitudes. I’m embarrassed to say how often I group  people in boxes together. Sometimes by race, often by perceived socio-economic status. As if I have any standing in that arena.

No one person can be responsible for defining the traits of an entire group of people. Blacks want the same things from life as whites, as Mexicans, as Asians, as Africans, as Indians, as Native Americans, as people. I hope no one ever holds me responsible for defining the entire white race in the way white Americans have seemed to make radical Muslims and some criminals responsible for defining entire religions and races. The Unibomber or the guy who bombed the abortion clinics doesn’t represent me and my beliefs.

It’s comfortable to drop people in boxes with quick labels: “Black,” “Native,” “Asian,” “Gay,” whatever.  But when it comes to race,  where’s the box labeled “White”? What goes  in that box? Redneck, hippie, metrosexual, Midwestern, conservative, liberal—even my own relatively small group of friends and acquaintances is too varied to fit into a single box with a single label. Even the small, homogenous town of Lynden is too varied to fit into a single box.

A friend wrote I have noticed that the more I get to know a person, the more difficult they are to describe in just a few words. To me, this is the key to eliminating prejudice and hate in all its forms. Find someone who is in front of you today and love them for who they are, not for what you see, what you’ve heard or what is comfortable. Listen well.

We are all the same. Our blood is red. Our hearts are broken. Our souls cry out for something to fill us.

I said that I would do it and indeed I did!

Melancholy wanders in to live with a lot of us in the fall, through the darkening days and the chilling rain. That’s all well and good (and really, it’s a very cozy kind of melancholy). The summertime kind is not cozy or enjoyable. Melancholy may not even be the right word – this year, it’s a grey fog that covers everything. I mentioned in my writing group a couple weeks ago that all I seem to have the energy for is Facebook and Candy Crush. Not writing, not thinking, not cooking, not reading, not anything else I usually like to do.

However, in a spurt of the productive kind of melancholy I produced something, as I said I would. And as I’ve mentioned before, saving face is a great motivator!

The following must be read in a morose tone and you must ponder getting older whilst reading.

imagestock.work

imagestock.work

Seasons

While I bemoaned the winter-bare branches Spring came without my noticing.

I looked again and the woods glowed greenly in the faint sun.

Then summer roared in before I appreciated the bright spring-green leaves, still soft and dewy, sticky with brand-newness; not yet made tough by the blasting summer wind nor scorched and wrinkled by glaring sun. The leaves rose to meet the sun eagerly, raising themselves as high as they could, toward the heat, toward the light, toward anything they could reach.

And before I could even take an afternoon to soak the season in, the sun dropped, the earth turned, and the leaves drew in on themselves, drying, wrinkling, turning red and gold and old, but more beautiful than before.

30 Days of Beauty

It’s January. January of the long grey days and longer dark nights. In Western Washington it’s cold and damp without even snow to break up the dullness.  Across the US and even right here in Bellingham black men and cops are equally under attack. The homeless line up under bridges on Squalcum Way and the hungry line up outside the Food Bank on Ellis. I drive by and look but barely see them.

In Africa men slaughter women and children; in Paris, fanatics execute mockers, and rest of us fortunate enough to have our bubble intact just keep going to work, going to church, and going home and complaining about the weather.

There must be beauty left in the world and for the next month it’s my mission to find it. A friend asked me the other day if I had a word for this year (last year was the Year of Yes, in which I said YES to as many new experiences as possible including starting this blog). I said, no, I’d not made any goals, resolutions, or words for 2015. But I changed my mind. Beauty keeps coming before me. I’ve avoided the word because it’s been made more than clear to me over the years that I don’t fit anybody’s definition of “beautiful” and it just straight put me off the word itself altogether.

But this year, the word and the idea just keeps being tossed at me and in my vicinity, and it’s time for me to let go of my anger at the word.

Even in these grey and dark days, there is plenty of beauty to find – it’s where  you look for it. God and His love has not abandoned our world, and where He is, Beauty can’t help but be. And yes, it’s in the eye of the beholder, and it’s my mission to behold it. [and of course, post it here, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc as #30daysofbeauty.]

Today’s is a Champagne Bellini on an ordinary Monday evening. Champagne is a drink of celebration, and I mixed it with peach puree that I canned last summer. Summer sunshine celebration in a glass. Beautiful.

photo (2)

The photo is not beautiful, but the Champagne Bellini is.

The Best Part of Christmas

Christmas collection

Was it when the sweet-faced strawberry blond boy said “I’m going to spin around so you can see my gloriful butt!” then proceeded to pirouette in the middle of the kitchen? Was it when the same boy, saying grace before dinner, asked God “for a good Christmas, so we don’t get sick again this year”?

Was it making lists of treats to make with my sister? Pumpkin pie, French silk chocolate pie, a gingerbread house for the boys, eggnog ice cream, chocolate crinkle cookies, and key lime cheesecake?

Or when the snow started falling Christmas Eve as we were driving to the candlelight service to sing songs about Jesus?

Was it sitting in the kitchen early Christmas morning while my brother-in-law teaches his eleven year  old son how to make crepes and cook sausage and bacon.  Or when the nine year old threw his arms around me and cried, “Merry Christmas!”

But really, it’s knowing that God a few years ago sent tiny Jesus baby down from a perfect life in Heaven to a dark and gritty life on earth. There  are all kinds of ways to look at the stable, but I think it was perhaps the gentlest place He could have been born – he came into the world amongst the one part of his creation that did NOT reject him- the animals. Warm, furry animals whose breath and bodies warmed the December air.  What better place for the world’s best baby?

So if you are fortunate enough to be surrounded by friends or family today, you’re having the same kind of Christmas Jesus did. And if you’re not able to be with family, Jesus is available; just invite Him over.