On Being Forgot

I have no lingering affection for 2020. 

I lost friends. I lost family. It was a horrid year, full of death and devastation, grifting and grief. (And much as I would like to wax political, I shall refrain from giving anyone the satisfaction, especially himself.) 

And I see many, many people—myself included—looking forward at 2021 with a wild, undeserved hope, while vowing to put 2020 in mothballs: to forget. To archive the epoch and crash the drive, perhaps striking it with a hammer for good measure. 

But unpopular as my sentiment may be, I think we do this at our peril. 

In the 1981 film Excalibur, Merlin delivers an ominous line that has stayed with me since I first heard it in the theater some 40 years ago: “For it is the doom of men that they forget.”

In other words: We best remember the lessons we learned (or didn’t) in 2020, so as we barrel full-tilt into 2021, we’ll know better how to cope. 

What did we learn?

We learned that climate change is real, and it is affecting us now. Today. The hundreds of thousands of dead koalas and wallabies in Australia, the dozens of dead people, the hundreds of thousands of acres of charred landscape in Arizona, California and around the world, the storms, the floods—Mother Nature told us in no uncertain terms that she is pissed, and she is coming for us. (Can you blame her?)

We best listen.

We learned that white privilege is a thing, and the Confederacy never did surrender. We learned that lynchings still happen, only now they’re done in broad daylight by those who wear white skin and often, badges. And hopefully, we learned well that Black, Indigenous and People of Color are over it, and it’s past time for white Americans to put our money where our mouths are with the whole “all people are created equal” thing. 

We best listen.

We learned that we had a Pandemic Office in the White House for a reason. We have the CDC for a reason. We have science, by God, for a reason. And when we ignore those things, we die. In masses. And instead of listening to the scientists about how to cope with a pandemic, we now have to ask them how to cope with the bodies we don’t have room for in the morgue.

We best listen. 

We learned that a pandemic makes for a great, post-carbon-fuel trial run. That when we take the cars and trucks and buses off the roads, and ground the planes, well, the air clears and the sky blues and the birds and animals return, poking cautious noses out from the places where they’ve hidden themselves from our toxic society. We learned that we don’t have to live in gray cubicles to get our work done, and when families and employers work together, both parents can maintain careers. 

We best listen.

And we learned that no matter how many facts people are peppered with, and how much reason garnishes our arguments, many of our good neighbors will choose to ignore fact for fantasy, eschew truth for fable. There is no arguing this fact, no way to sweeten the stench of ignorance. And ignorance, when its fruit is allowed to ripen, bears death.

We best listen. 

We learned that we had to put “normal life” on hold. That all the important business meetings, all the Tinder dates, the weddings, the funerals, the career changes, the overseas vacations, the college classes—all of it had to stop, for a time. We learned that we are not the master of our ship of fate—we are not, indeed, the captain of our destiny.

We best listen.

We learned that our civilization is but a veneer; that our food security sits on the flimsy shoulders of other humans, fallible and fall-able; that our lifesaving medicines can be stopped in midstream by the whim of an annoyed postmaster. We learned that only the wealthy thrive during a pandemic; indeed, the poor are literally kicked to the curb. We learned that American society embraces “survival of the fittest” as the only one truth on which our nation is founded, and “In God We Trust” is just an ad campaign.

We best listen.

And lest you think this is simply a cynical diatribe, I encourage you to review the year. Look at the headlines. Read the accounts. (And no, I’m not talking about Fox, that right-wing propaganda machine. I’m talking about real news, founded on facts.) And when you’ve finished reading, remember. And vow never to forget. 

Because only remembering will bring change. And only change will make 2021 a better year.

Please. Listen.

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On feminism, fear and the violation of silence


So I guess I’m a feminist.

Not in any kind of, “I hate men and I think they should be relegated to the back of the bus” sense, but more in a, “I love men but I don’t get why women are still marginalized” sense.

And we are, we women. If we’re all paying attention, we see it every day.

We see it in the ads that portray us as things—pretty baubles to sell products.[1]

We see it in the number of women who show up in the E.R.—or the morgue—after a dispute with a spouse or lover.

We see it in the number of women who are not rising to positions of power in business or politics, or teaching in the church, or making the same wage as a man for the same work.[2] In 2013.

We see it in the way toys are marketed to our children: how boys still get the erector sets and the science projects, and girls…well, girls get dolls. Increasingly sexy dolls. Dolls that tell them they’d better grow up to be sex objects, because that’s what boys like.[3]


If we pay a bit closer attention, we see it in how all things feminine—kindness, reconciliation, caring, collaboration—are denigrated in the workplace, and often in the home. How the “dog eat dog” rules of business still rule. How women—and men—who take time off work to care for a sick child or attend a school play can pay the price in lost career momentum. How trying to “balance” work and family often means a lower rung on the corporate ladder—or getting kicked off of it entirely.

We see it in how caring for children or making dinner or cleaning up afterward is often still considered “women’s work” and therefore is beneath the attention of the husband. Even if both spouses work full-time.[4]

More subtly, we see it in how people of faith—and here I’m speaking of more than one faith—often reinforce the “separate but equal” stereotype, maintaining that men and women were never meant to be equal in the eyes of God and certainly are not equal in the eyes of man.

What on earth are we doing? Are we nuts?

Look, if God wanted women to be of less value than men, all He had to do was make sure women had a lower IQ than men. Easy enough—He’s God, after all. All He had to do was create us with the inability to teach, to preach, to think, to reason.

He didn’t.

Often we are physically weaker than men; often we are not. Often we are emotionally stronger; often we are not. Often we are smarter; often we are not. This does not make us less than; it makes us human.

The gender roles that have been imposed on American culture seem to have a great deal to do with our paternalistic history and precious little to do with God’s design.

I could pull out all the Bible verses supporting this position, but if you’re a Bible reader, you’ve heard them all before, anyway. And yes, I’ve heard all the verses supporting the idea that a woman should be in submission to her husband. I’m not interested in Bible wars. I tend to agree with Rich Mullins:

It starts off so beautifully and then at the end of that Psalm, the last verse of that Psalm is “How very blessed is the man who dashes the little one’s heads against the rocks.” [Psalm 137] This is not the sort of scripture you read at a pro-life meeting. But it’s in there nonetheless. Which is the thing about the Bible that’s why it always cracks me up when people say ‘Well in Dududududududuh it says…’ you kinda go ‘Wow it says a lot of things in there.’ Proof texting is a very dangerous thing. I think if we were given the scriptures it was not so that we could prove that we were right about everything. If we were given the scriptures it was to humble us into realizing that God is right and the rest of us are just guessing[5].

What I’m interested in is an acknowledgment from both sides that women—and men—have an awful lot of good stuff, valuable stuff, to bring to the table. Why? Because both men and women were made in the image and likeness of God. And paying a woman less or denigrating her ideas or keeping her from a promotion or insulting her intelligence or belting her across the face with a boot or selling her body to the highest bidder simply because she is a woman is simply unacceptable. It’s unacceptable to God—it’s about darn time it became unacceptable to the rest of us.

But we tolerate it. Why?


Why do men—and some women—have such a hard time with the idea of equal value? And this raises another question: How do we raise our sons? What are we teaching them about the value of women/womanhood/home and family?  If we are teaching our sons that cooking and cleaning are “women’s work”—and sadly, many of us still are—then we are teaching them to devalue who women are. We’re teaching them that women belong in the pink ghetto—and that is not a place a man should be. We’re teaching them that some lines shouldn’t be crossed.

We’re teaching them that it’s okay to “keep a woman in her place.”

We’re teaching our daughters that, too.

(We’re also raising men who are incapable of taking care of themselves in a woman’s absence, but that’s a whole nother topic. Really, moms? Do you really think your son is going to marry the moment he moves out of your house, and he’ll conveniently die before his wife? That he’ll never need to know how to roast a chicken or clean a toilet?)

Popular culture is teaching us this, too. Every ad that shows part of a woman’s body as a lure to buy clothing or perfume or motor oil or beer—every television program that buys into the myth that blondes are “dumb” or women are an emotional hot mess—every single one reinforces the stereotype that women can’t handle the tough decisions, make the difficult calls.

Tell this to any woman who has sat at her child’s bedside in an E.R., or kept her cool on the battlefield, or held her own in the boardroom or in front of a Congressional committee. Tell her this, and watch her laugh. She knows it’s a stupid and inaccurate stereotype—and so should we.

I’m not saying that men and women are the same. We’re not. (Obviously.) We have some basic, essential differences and both men and women should be aware of—and respectful of—these differences.

So what is the problem here? Why do these issues persist, decades after the women’s movement?

I don’t know. But I suspect it has to do with fear.

If women have “come a long way, baby” (according to the 1970s-era cigarette commercial), Arlie Hochschild contends that maybe some men have gotten lost along the way. Women made huge strides…and then we looked back to see most of the men giving us puzzled looks from where we left them.[6]

What do you do when you’re king of the mountain and suddenly some woman in hot climbing shoes makes it to the top and sits down beside you?

If climbing those mountains is what has defined you, this new equality throws into confusion the very essence of who you are. It questions your definition of masculinity. It challenges the very purpose of your life.

If, as Annie Oakley famously sang, “anything you can do, I can do better,” what’s the point in being a guy? Where is the difference? What can a man bring to the table, now that the roles are suddenly changing? What alternative do you have to simply holding on to what you’ve always known?

Some churches have answered that difficult question with a simple smackdown: women can’t preach, teach or serve unless they do it in the children’s ministry or the kitchen. A woman’s job is to take care of the family. She has no business in a position of authority over a man, in the church or otherwise.[7]

This is using the Bible as bludgeon. The church has a long history of this. I do not believe this was ever God’s intent.

And the church tends to demonize women who challenge this status quo.

I don’t believe that was ever God’s intent, either.

Let me repeat here what I said at the top: I love men. I love it that they have strengths I don’t and that men and women are different. I celebrate those differences (a planet full of just men or just women would be tremendously boring, not to mention quickly depopulated). And I don’t envy guys as they wrestle with this topic—it’s a difficult one for both genders. That’s why I think it’s important that we continue with this dialogue—that we all continue to learn and grow and realize that both men and women have assets to bring to every aspect of our lives together.

So what’s the big deal? Why am I so vocal about this—so passionate—so angry? And since I’m blogging about it, why do I think you should care about it, too, whether you’re a man or a woman?

Because women are dying[8] in myriad ways.

Because women often are unable to raise our children the way we would like to—the way we have a right to—because of wage inequity.[9]

Because women often are unable to save for retirement because of wage inequity.

Because women are being denied our calling—our God-given calling.

And so, we are dying.

Physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually. Dying.

Sometimes, the answer is a husband.

Sometimes, it isn’t. (And really, should it be? Must we always be rescued?)

But it is a cop-out to join hands and sing “Kum ba yah” and say that God will take care of women no matter what we do, so we can ignore the problem and shove it off on Him.

That’s like saying God will take care of the poor, no matter what we do. Anyone who’s been to a Third World country knows there’s more to it than that. God is a God of justice. He calls us as Christians to live out that justice.[10] It isn’t His job to make us fair, to make us kind, to make us do what is right. That is our job. Our job is to love one another the way God loves us. Our job is to obey (John 13:34), and to become the people He has called us to become. To not wink at injustice; to not be silent in the face of what is uncomfortable; to not ignore our sisters when they cry out for help.

This is the job we are failing. Through our petty interdenominational fights, our proof-texting and our silence, our tacit endorsement of misogyny and our ignorance of the issues, we are failing.

It’s time to step up. Because this journey we are taking, this “long way” we have come, is littered with casualties: children ignored for the sake of putting food on the table or toys in the attic (or the garage), marriages on the rocks, men alone and confused about their purpose, women who have died at the hands of those who purport to love them, women who have shelved their dreams—their future and hope—in the interest of “getting along” in society, of fitting in, not making waves. And our society is a casualty, as well: a society that is not as rich as it could be, a society that has suffered loss because its eminently capable daughters didn’t grow up to be scientists or astronauts or biologists or Bible scholars, women who might have found the cure for cancer or explored strange new worlds or led a sister (or a brother) to Christ. It is all of us who are paying the price.

And the price is just too high.

[1] Kilbourne, J. “Killing Us Softly.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTlmho_RovY

[5] http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Rich_Mullins  …from his concert in Lufkin, TX, 1997.

[6] Hochschild, A., &  Machung, A. (2003). The second shift. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

[10] Read the book of James.

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On trust and watching sparrows fall

The birds found my feeder again today.

I put up the feeder some time ago and filled it with millet and seeds and all kinds of things birds like, and I waited. I thought it might ease Niff’s boredom to watch the birds feed a bit. I promised myself I would keep the birds safe and I wouldn’t let Niff get too close, and I’ve kept my promise. She loves to watch them from inside the sliding glass door but sometimes they see her and quickly fly off in fear, not realizing she can’t get through the glass.

Now, my Niffy-cat is a mighty hunter before the Lord. Unlike many other cats, she does not utter an “attack cry” when she sees something she seriously wants; rather, she is rapid on approach, placing her paws with surgical precision, totally focused on her prey; she is sleek as a wisp of smoke and utterly, completely, deathly silent. She and I have played “stalk” around the apartment on occasion but I always have to stop before she is ready—more than once I have lifted my head to peek around a piece of furniture or a door frame and found her face bare inches away from mine, her eyes huge and black. Invariably I freak out, then I laugh…it’s a nervous laugh that springs from the surprise of fear. She is very, very good, my cat. She always seems terribly disappointed when I stop playing mouse.

So I bore this firmly in mind one recent cool spring afternoon when we temporarily hosted some unexpected guests. On my way down to the apartment office I noticed quite a few thin branches on the sidewalk under a tree close to my place; when I got closer, I realized a nest was on the ground, too. “Oh no,” I said, and stopped and looked down. Two tiny baby birds—one in the nest, one partly out of it, lay right on the cold concrete. “Poor little things,” I said, sorrowful. I looked up, but couldn’t see where the nest had been originally. It looked as if perhaps a cat had gone after the nest and the branches had broken under its weight. I looked back at the sidewalk, saddened at the loss.

Then I realized the nest was moving rhythmically. I bent closer. Both birds were breathing. They were alive!

I quickly grabbed a few Kleenex and carefully picked up the birds, nest and all. One of the chicks opened a woozy eye and examined me (for all the world as if he were saying, “What the heck just happened??”) and closed it again.

I ran my errand and dashed back to my apartment, birds in hand. I quickly put them in a box out on the balcony so Niffy wouldn’t get them, then went online.

After 10 minutes I knew I couldn’t keep them. The chicks were maybe an inch to an inch and a half in size—large marbles with fuzzy down and pinfeathers. Their black beaks were far too tiny for a syringe. If I tried to give them water, I’d kill them. I called a local wildlife rescue organization and left a message on their hotline, then I took the box and birds back downstairs and taped the box to the tree, hoping the mother might come back.

The kind woman at the wildlife rescue place recommended I bring the birds into my apartment so they wouldn’t perish from chill, but I explained that Niff would consider them lean but tasty hors d’oeuvres. After a few minutes of tossing around ideas, I agreed to take them to the emergency veterinary clinic across town.

I grabbed car keys and purse and went downstairs, cut the tape and checked on the chicks. One had crawled completely free of the nest and had pooped on the Kleenex, and curled up next to his nest-mate, who hadn’t left the nest. He looked at me again and cheeped. He seemed to have recovered somewhat from his precipitous fall. “You’re a brave one,” I murmured. “I’m taking you to someone who can take care of you. Hang in there, little ones.” I covered them carefully with a clean Kleenex to keep them warm, with enough of a “tent” so they could breathe.

I tried to avoid bumps while driving across town. (As if the nest hadn’t been bobbing and swaying in wind for days.) The brave chick started cheeping at me from under the Kleenex. I didn’t know if he was calling for his mother or just making conversation, but I spoke soothingly to him and told him he would be safe soon. He seemed to like that and after a few minutes he quieted.

The receptionist at the vet clinic was knowledgeable and sympathetic. She said they keep wild birds warm in an incubator until the wildlife rescue people come fetch them. Apparently baby birds can rally quickly if they’re not badly injured, and my two seemed to be in good shape. We chatted for awhile and, reassured, I headed home, the sun’s dying glow leading me west.

I’m a softy when it comes to just about anything living and helpless; I just can’t stand any waste of life. Life—all life—is a miracle. Each one of God’s creatures is formed with exquisite care and it is always a rare privilege to see any of them up close. (Okay, with the possible exception of scorpions, but I figure those are a product of the Fall.) I found myself thanking God that I was there just when the chicks needed me and that the wildlife rescue place was there to answer my questions and provide a place for the chicks. I thanked Him that it was a Saturday and I was home and had the time.

“Thank You, Lord,” I said. “You truly do see every sparrow fall. Or in this case, baby doves.”

I was silent for a moment as I drove through the gathering dark, and then it seemed as if He spoke quietly to me: If I provided a rescue and a home for those two baby birds, can I not also provide a rescue and a home for you, oh child of little faith? Do you have any more control over your life than those babies do? If I caught them, can I not also catch you?

I laughed softly. Of course. The enemy may prowl around me like a lion, like my cat on the stalk; the storms of this world may shake my tiny place of safety, and branches may fail; but God will catch me. He does, He has, and He will again. It may not be in the way I would like. It may not be comfortable. But He never promised me a life of comfort; He promised me Him. I am in the palm of His hand, and no one can remove me from that sacred space. My only comfort comes from staying there, close to Him. My belief or trust in anything else is what Ann Voskamp calls “practical atheism.”[1] Either I trust God, or I don’t. There is no half-trust. There is no partial faith. And if I don’t trust God, how can I say I believe Him?

Oh, how I wish this were easy.

I cry with Thomas, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief.” And sometimes, that simple, passionate prayer is enough.

That night, I prayed for the birds. And I slept on the softest cushion of trust.

[1] Voskamp, A. (2010) One thousand gifts: A dare to live fully right where you are. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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On words and working and walking with a limp

One word.

And then another.

They come slowly, haltingly; a bit like how my walk with God feels right now.

One step.

And then another.

Cautious; careful, yet hopeful. And knowing that truly, there is only one direction to walk. Only one that leads to life. Because every other path is futile. I have known this for many years now. But these days, the knowledge is “new every morning.”

My hand is better. And here’s the awful thing: I feel so ungrateful sometimes. My hand is better, but not fully healed. I can type, but I cannot carry a suitcase.

Can one be partially grateful? Is that not just ingratitude in formal dress?

And yet, every day I am stronger. And every day, I think, my faith is stronger. Every day, I am grateful to Him for the beauty I see, for His presence, even when I can’t feel it. I have wrestled with God. I still wrestle, some days when the cat gets angry at me for leaving her alone too much or I’m late to work or I can’t find what I need at the store–the days life just doesn’t go in my intended direction. I now walk with a limp. His limp.

I am working now. It is part-time; it does not cover the bills; but it is fun and it is interesting and it gets me out of the house. Some days I am overwhelmingly grateful for it and other days I am desperately afraid that God has forgotten me still. Some days I firmly believe this job is God’s will for me and other days I think it is just something I have found to do until God comes back from his fishing trip. “Oh! Her! [slaps His forehead] I completely forgot…”

I’ve been waiting to write because I wanted to wait for the denouement—I wanted this whole odd, painful period to make sense. I wanted to tie this up so neatly, with a bow (red, perhaps, shot with gold)—a gift that would encourage and uplift. A gift that would at least make sense to you… and to me.

But then I realized that it may never make sense, this side of heaven. And if I wait…well, all that will do is silence my voice. The voice that God gave me. The voice He expects me to use for his glory. The words of praise He deserves.

So I write, and the questions swirl around me and the answers elude. I sing through the pain. I pray, and sometimes it’s less prayer and more raw, anguished cry: “Have You forgotten?”

And the question lingers: Maybe it isn’t so much about finding the answers, as worshiping through the questions, the fear and the doubt? I know that is the “right” Christian response to difficulty and trial. It’s funny how quickly the “right” Christian response can turn trite and banal when you’re the one living the question. But as I find the courage to do just that—worship through the question—it seems the angst stills and I find God’s peace at the center of the storm.

Maybe that’s what He’s trying to teach me.

There’s a meme going around Facebook that so fits my mood right now. The first panel is Jesus with his arm around His child, smiling and saying, “….where you see one set of footprints is where I carried you.” In the second panel, Jesus says with a bit of a shrug, “…that long groove is where I dragged you, kicking and screaming…”

I laugh every time I see it. Mostly because I get the sense that right now I’m leaving a very long groove.

But at least He hasn’t let go.

And I’m still singing, even as I walk through this life with a limp.

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On fish sticks and running away

I haven’t written much lately and there’s an embarrassing reason for that.

I am typing this one-handed, woefully slowly. On a related note, and as my mother will attest, I hate fish sticks.

When I was a kid, every once in awhile Mom would make fish sticks with tartar sauce for herself and my sister, Val. (I always remember this meal being just the three of us so I suspect Dad didn’t like fish sticks either, and Mom waited until he was gone some evening playing a concert or directing a musical so she could serve them on the sly.)

I think Mom always hoped I would come around to the fish-stick way of life so we three girls could have something to bond over—kind of a chicks’ night in, with fish. Alas, it was not to be. I carried my fish-stick loathing into adulthood; while I have grown to love fish fillets, never has a box of fish sticks desecrated my freezer.

(I should observe that we three never had difficulty bonding over chocolate.)

I bring up fish sticks because today I can identify with Jonah.

God called; I ran.

As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, I believe God has had me in a period of waiting, this year. It has been long and it has been difficult, and although He has blessed me in many ways as I have journeyed through it, by August I had had enough.

Am I really hearing God? I’d wonder. Was that confirmation really confirmation, or just my own ego? Would God really put me through a period of waiting…for months? What if He is waiting for me to move—to step out in faith?

Anguish and prayer and tears and finally, in August, I said, “I’m done. I don’t know what You’re doing, Lord, and I don’t know if this is really You so I am going my own way. If You want me to wait any more, You will have to shut the door.” (And yes, it could be argued that my tone was rather Jonah-like in anger. I preferred to think of it as being honest with God in my “King David-like frustration.”)

So He did shut the door. Metaphorically speaking, He shut it on my hand…which is now sufficiently injured to keep me on the bench—waiting—for another few weeks.

And I am happy. Happy!! I know, isn’t that crazy? But I am happy because now I know. Yes, that was God! I was hearing His voice! He was giving me direction! Thank You, Jesus, You weren’t on vacation!

But in truth, the injury is humbling and it is annoying. It means I will have to ask for help—Ms. Independent, who has been able to take care of herself for years without much assistance, thank you very much.

Ms. Independent, who now cannot even scrub a pot.

Perhaps there is a lesson in humility tag-teaming this lesson in patience?

On Saturday, in a desperate bid to make sense of it all, I pulled out a little book I hadn’t read in many years: Bruce Wilkinson’s Secrets of the Vine.

Secrets of the Vine was a follow-up to Wilkinson’s wildly successful prior attempt, a little book called The Prayer of Jabez. I am not sure if Secrets was as successful, but if not I know why: it deals with pain. It’s a topic most folks—myself included—would rather avoid.

But when you’re in the middle of the ocean in the middle of a storm and no boat in sight, that’s when you flail desperately for the life preserver.

Wilkinson writes, “Did you know that growers prune their vineyards more intensively as the vines age? One horticultural bulletin I read explained why:

“The vine’s ability to produce growth increases each year, but without intensive pruning the plant weakens and its crop diminishes. Mature branches must be pruned hard to achieve maximum yields.

“If you look at the future from a maturing plant’s point of view, there’s considerable cutting in store. But from the grower’s point of view, the future holds something wonderful—grapes, grapes, and more grapes!” [1]

This little book helped me to realize that God isn’t doing this because He hates me or wants to see me squirm. He has a reason for this season of waiting. A reason that is important enough to sideline me. He is doing this because He loves me and He knows that there are things in my life that need to be pruned off if I am to realize my full potential in Him. Perhaps my impatience is one of those things? Or my pride? Ouch. 

That hurts more than my hand.

But either way, I’m just glad that—so far, at least—He hasn’t made me eat fish sticks.


I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 1: 3-6 [Emphasis mine.]

[1] Wilkinson, B. (2001.) Secrets of the Vine. Multnomah Publishers, Colorado Springs, CO. p. 71

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On evil and other myths

[Warning: this one is heavy. I wrote this back in February. I haven’t posted it because it’s a tough read. But the TVPRA (Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act) is coming before the Senate, and I think it’s important to illustrate why this legislation is so critical.]

I just got back from downtown. Twice a month I go to the homeless shelter and sing with the praise team while a group of volunteers serves breakfast. I don’t always make it—when it’s 110 in the shade I just can’t bear the heat—but I go as often as I can, especially in winter. It was cold this morning, in the mid 50s.

Oddly, today I didn’t want to go. When I got downtown, there was a heaviness in the air. I was chatting with one of the other singers, a woman who is usually quite upbeat and positive, and she said the same thing: “I don’t want to be here today. Are we really doing any good?”

When we got started, things still felt odd. Usually we get a modicum of attention while we’re singing and playing, and people will sing along; today, we were ignored. People were chatting and laughing with each other or focusing silently on their food. No one looked at us.

I started to pray silently.

It isn’t fashionable these days to talk about the existence of evil. It affronts our Western sensibilities—that school-taught dogma that says that we are all that exists, that God and Satan and angels and demons are some imaginative bit of mysticism out of the Dark Ages. I can assure you—without going into detail—that over the course of years I have discovered that God is very real. And so (unfortunately) is His enemy.

By the second break, I had seen the prostitutes and the pimps in the audience, eating their free breakfast. It doesn’t bother me because I know that for some of these women this is the only meal they will get all day.

Just before we started our final set, I saw a woman saunter by, wearing a tube top but no jacket against the cold. Tattooed on her neck, in a beautiful, scripty font, was the word, “F***ed.”

I had heard about this—about the pimps tattooing the women they have imprisoned into this life—but part of my mind just rejected it as an exaggeration. This morning, up close and personal, I saw it with my own eyes.

Pimps permanently proclaim their ownership of these women through a specific tattoo. In some cases, if the pimp doesn’t want to spend the money on tattooing or he wants to teach the girl a lesson, he will brand her with a wire clothes hanger heated on a stovetop. The girls have no choice about what is written on their bodies.

No woman in her right mind would have that word tattooed on her neck—it is a word of pain, of failure, of degradation. I tried to imagine what it would be like to get up every single morning and look in the mirror and see that word, written on myself. I tried, and failed. Does she block it out, somehow? Like she blocks it out when a man rapes her and hands cash to her jailer?

Women—and in too many cases, girls—do not do this by choice. This is a form of slavery that is forced upon them. Usually they receive no money for what they do—it all goes back to the pimp. If a girl earns her quota for the night, sometimes he will feed her. Often the girls are forced into drug addiction because this makes them more malleable, depresses their appetite and solidifies the pimp’s control. It also ensures that the police, to whom they otherwise might turn for help, become the enemy, not to be trusted.

Often the girls stay because they believe they have no way out, that their only protection and salvation is through their pimp. Often the girls are in love with their pimp. It is a pernicious slavery that convinces a woman that her only value lies between her legs, that her only worth is as a piece of meat to satisfy a lust of the worst kind. This is no lovemaking; frequently johns will buy a prostitute because they want someone they can hit or punish while they have sex. It is a soul-destroying existence that we must never endorse, and yet we endorse it every day through our silence.

If movies showed the true impact of prostitution instead of romanticizing it, that might help bring change. Change is needed, because the darkness is rising. It is more lucrative now to sell children instead of drugs, so street gangs are changing their product line to include girls. The average age of children trafficked into prostitution in the U.S. is 13—meaning there are just as many 11-year-olds who are raped as 15-year-olds. Often the girls are runaways; often they are unwanted or unwelcome at home. Sometimes girls are lured into the life by men who pretend to be their “boyfriend” and shower them with gifts. Whether coerced by affection or violence, once a girl is raped, escape becomes incredibly difficult.

I was coming home on I-17 after our set and I had to take an exit and stop in a parking lot because the tears were blinding me and making it unsafe to drive. I think what upsets me most—even more than the slavery itself—is the indifference of society to what these girls endure, as if it is their own fault. It isn’t. No five-year-old little girl says she wants to be a prostitute when she grows up. No girl under the age of 18 has the wisdom to make such a devastating and radical choice for her future: this is why we have statutory rape laws.

Why do these laws apply to the upper-class white girl who is raped at 16 but not the poverty-stricken child of color who is sodomized for pay six times a night? Why do we see one as the victim, the other as “just a whore”?

It happens here—right here, in your town and mine. It happens in other countries. Lives are ruined—young lives, full of hope and promise. Evil exists, and it flourishes because it is allowed and encouraged.

But there is light in this darkness. Many organizations—Hagar International, World Vision, StreetLight, Not For Sale, and many others—are doing incredible, life-changing work in the darkest places, the places where evil breeds. They are driving back the darkness. But they cannot do it without our help—our support, our concern, our prayers, our love. They do it because they know that each and every child has value, that each girl is made in the image and likeness of God, the God who says He has given her a hope and a future. Dare we then turn away and call her worthless?

Please call your senator and support S 1301. You can find out more here.

Thanks for reading this post. I know it wasn’t an easy one.

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On the music from a misshapen mesquite

The insistent whine of a chain saw penetrates my morning.

It stormed here last night, something I always love but last night I slept through it all and when I stepped out on the balcony first thing after rising, I saw our grand old mesquite tree tipped over on its side. And my heart broke.

The trees here, they get cut down on a whim. This one, however, long was spared. Even though its trunk lay over at an odd angle almost parallel to the ground, it had grown well, and large for a mesquite: its branches stretched easily some 40 feet in the air and its trunk circumscribed a ragged but stolid several feet around. Misshapen, distorted and imperfect, it grew anyway and the birds enjoyed its branches and the neighborhood cats lay in casual ambush, stretched leopard-esque across the leaning trunk.

Two years I’ve lived here and watched the tree survive storm after storm.

But last night, something hit that was just too strong. And the tree fell.

Mesquites, now, they’re fragile—notoriously so. I had a Chilean mesquite in my front yard (this was when I had a house) and one evening, for no good reason, a major branch just cracked right off. (A gracious neighbor cut up the branch and hauled it away for his fireplace, murmuring thanks for upcoming warm and fragrant winter nights.) A mesquite tree needs to be watered deep, I was told, so that the roots dig hard and bury themselves in the rocklike soil layer a few feet under the desert surface. My tree I’d watered deep, which is why I didn’t lose the whole thing, but this one here…when I looked closer this morning I realized this mesquite’s roots were concentrated away from the irrigation lines. For all the tree’s size, its roots were shallow, and its sharply angled trunk was pulling it away from its own anchor.

It was just a matter of time.

Now, the tree is being sundered into firewood or mesquite chips or mulch. Its brave glory is gone.

And I look at the destruction and I think, What has ME unbalanced?

What has ME leaning in the wrong direction, ready to topple? Are my roots deep enough to survive the fury of an unexpected midnight storm? Or am I all show and no stability? Am I a fall waiting to happen? This is what I wonder in this season of uncertainty, a season that seems to harbor no future, no past—a season that feels like I’m walking through fog at night, unchanging and bleak. Who am I, really, and what do I believe? And is it enough to anchor me as the wind rises and the doubts assail?

And Jesus meets me, even in my questions. You will not fall, He whispers, and in my mind I hear the echo of the song I posted a few days ago:

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil…

Christ alone
Weak made strong in the Savior’s love

Through the storm
He is Lord
Lord of all…

My roots are inextricably bound in Christ. He is my rock. Weak made strong… It is His love that gives me any stability. The only way I can fall is to separate myself from Him. But biblically, this is not possible (see Romans 8). And He has promised that all things—ALL things—work together for good for those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.

This includes me. Even when my growth seems twisted or distorted or just plain wrong. Even when it seems that for every step taken in faith, I slide two steps back. Even when it seems my leaning is in the wrong direction.

My frustration, my tears, my sense of betrayal or hopelessness or fear, my damage, my pain, my disobedience, even my worst anger—none of this fazes God. And none of it can separate me from His love. This blows my mind.

He knows my frame. He remembers that I am dust. *

And He loves me.

My anchor holds within the veil.


We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation. For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.

For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying:

“I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.”

Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.

Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain [veil] into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

—Hebrews 6: 9-20 (emphasis mine)

* from Psalm 103

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On Miss Scarlett and Psalm 27

I really did want to be Melanie Hamilton.

In spite of her earning the jealous wrath of Scarlett O’Hara (this is all from Gone With the Wind, of course) and unknowingly earning epithets like “mealy-mouthed ninny,” Miss Melly impressed me with her strength and her kindness, even when her life wasn’t going well. Scarlett, I felt, was too selfish, too manipulative, too quick with her anger and her scheming. (On the other hand, part of me still has a sneaking admiration for a woman who can see a new gown in old velvet draperies…and has the panache to wear them.)

As a child I respected Melanie and wanted to emulate her. As I’ve gotten older, I know I’ve grown away from the “me against the world” attitude that dominated my youth. I’ve worked harder at friendships, sought reconciliation and forgiveness in my relationships and tried to grow in grace as I’ve walked with God.

For all my self-improvement, however, I still suspect that deep inside I’m more like Scarlett: prideful, singular of focus, selfish, easily angered, happy only when I get my way. She comes out at the most inconvenient times, generally when I’m feeling weak or threatened.

Lately I’m feeling weak and threatened.

I am walking (or being dragged, kicking and screaming) through a season of not knowing what God is doing—not knowing what direction to take. I have sought Him with prayers and fastings, but have come to the end of myself…and my faith. The direction I believe I have been given makes no sense. This is beyond frightening.

And Miss Scarlett returns.

“Take control!” she says. “You know you can’t depend on anybody but yourself.” “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!”

(Okay, well, there’s still food on my table…but the fear is there, nonetheless.)

And then there are the well-meaning friends, who tell me that God is “refining” me, or that “God helps those who help themselves,” or if I “just had more faith,” the way would be clear.

It is interesting to me that none of them say what I believe the Holy Spirit is saying to me right now. It’s from Psalm 27.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.

Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.

For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”

Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.

When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me.

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.

Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Now, I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong before and I’m quite sure I’ll be wrong again. But for today, at least, I am just going back to waiting on the Lord, and asking Him to strengthen my heart. Asking Him to show me His goodness “in the land of the living.” Asking Him to give me courage.

Because the alternative will turn me into someone I don’t want to be.

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“Cornerstone” by Hillsong

“Cornerstone” by Hillsong

We did an amazing new song this morning during worship. It’s a great remake of an old hymn. Still can’t get through it without crying. : )

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On labyrinths and finding the way

I recently spent a day with God in a quiet place. This year has been difficult and full of changes and I know more are coming but right now I cannot see my way. So I spent time praying in a chapel and walking pretty pathways, and I came upon a labyrinth.

Now, I freely confess, I’ve never gotten the labyrinth thing. On this day I look at it and I think, Really? Come on, I can just step over the little rock walls and walk straight to the center. Seems a little esoteric.

I think I hear God chuckle.

So I proceed to the starting point and take a deep breath. Okay, Lord. This seems silly to me but I’m open to what You might want to teach me through this thing.

I start walking. And immediately I notice something.

At first the labyrinth seems pretty straightforward. (And yes, in my head I hear a little Munchkin voice saying, “Follow the yellow brick road.”) I mean, it’s one path, right? How challenging can it be?

But when I step into it I immediately realize that, while it is organized, it isn’t exactly predictable. Because I’m not starting along the outside of the circle, which seems like the logical way it should go. No, I am immediately surrounded by other sections of the path. I can’t readily see exactly where I am going. The twists and turns of the path surprise me. But I am committed now.


I look down. It is reassuring to see other footprints. Others have come this way before me; others will come after. I may be alone right now, but other friends have walked this same pathway.

I can see other sections of the path as I travel. I don’t know when I will get to these sections, but I know the path is singular, so I will get there. The path has a beginning and it has an end. But the path is not a maze. I don’t have to worry about getting lost, taking a wrong turn or coming face to face with a dead end.

Through much of the journey I can see my goal: the center of the labyrinth. But when the path turns, often I find myself actually walking away from my target. Still, I must trust the path, even when it seems I am walking in the wrong direction. If I turn around I will find myself back where I started.

Sometimes I stop in my journey along the path. I listen to the song of a bird or a rattle of wind through the trees, or to watch a lizard dart under a rock. Sometimes I fix a stone that has fallen out of place, so other travelers will find the path easier. But I never alter the route.

I like it that the pathway is a guide, not surrounded by walls. If someone else were here, I could call out encouragement to her as she navigated the path. I am not separated from fellow travelers. But because the way of the path is not marked with evidence of levels of achievement or “graduations,” once she steps into the labyrinth I cannot tell where she is, exactly. I cannot know how far she has traveled or how far she has yet to go. I cannot know what challenges she has met or which she may still face. I just know that, like me, she is learning as she goes, and we will both arrive at our ultimate destination, although maybe not at the same time.

Each traveler’s journey is the same, yet different.

Getting to the center seems almost anticlimactic. A scattering of rocks, a candle or two, dried flowers, a necklace charm, little items with scriptures engraved. Evidence that other travelers have come and gone. Encouragement. Love. I breathe deep and enjoy the sun on my face, enjoy this moment of completion.

But then my eye catches something almost buried in the dirt—a smooth rock. Here? I kneel to pick it up. It has been tumbled and its sharp edges are worn away. The translucent pink inside is clearly visible.

It is beautiful.

And I know it is for me, this rock. It is my gift from God, today—my reward for trusting the path.

My grandmother used to tumble rocks. They didn’t look like much when she first put them in the tumbler, but once they had gone through the process, they were beautiful. Tumbling rocks to perfection requires three things: time, water…and other rocks.

The rocks stay in the tumbler for many days, going over and over, back and forth. The tumbler is dark and noisy and (I’m quite sure) unpleasant inside. Tiny pieces break off of each rock, and the tiny pieces wash against the bigger pieces and slowly, slowly, the imperfections in each are worn away.

I bend down and pick up another rock. It’s a common desert rock—dirt, rough edges, crystals embedded in the chert. I clutch it in my hand and its sharpness bites into my flesh. It is raw, unrefined. It is potential.

And I see the difference. And I seek the difference.

This is my journey.

It will be unpleasant and dark at times and often I will not understand why I’m forced to endure the pain of rubbing up against these sharp, uncomfortable changes. But I will endure. Because my only other option is to stay the way I am. And frankly, that scares me more.

It is only by cooperating with the One Who wears away my rough edges—one agonizing chip at a time—that I will ever become all He wants me to be…all I want to be.

Because all I want to be…is His.

And this journey, this labyrinth—this is the only way to follow. God’s path. The one He ordained for me before time existed, before He had exhaled stars into the void. He knew I would be standing here today, seeking Him, wondering, wandering, confused. I may not understand every turn, I may not always travel the path perfectly, but if I follow, I’ll get there. He will guide my steps, because He has ordained a purpose in every one.

So I will follow, trusting. One step at a time.


Nichole Nordeman has a beautiful take on this concept in her song, “River God.”

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