A friend of mine is on vacation with her family. She updated her facebook status that they were in a hotspot for fantastic views, but couldn’t see them because of a dense fog. I commented, a more subtle kind of beauty.

And since then I’ve been thinking of different kinds of beauty – of skies angry with storm clouds; of reflected light and peeling paint; of dirty, happy children; of the pattern of raindrops on a window pane …

… and of Jesus, man of sorrows, who had no beauty to draw men to himself, but whose perfect life of kindness and compassion is so beautiful that it makes my heart ache to think of it.

I want to learn to see beauty where few others even attempt.

I want my life to reflect the beauty of Jesus so strongly that others are drawn to him even when they don’t understand.

I want my appreciation of the beauty of this life to be easy, and natural, and thankful, and glorifying to the Author of beauty.

it’s a funny mix of 20 and 40

no less dreams

but more reality

seems like yesterday

forever ago

a blink

a lifetime, it’s always been so

exactly the same

changed beyond recognition

what will the second half bring?

On July 21st, 2006, four years ago today, my beloved daddy died. In the spring of 2007, just a few months later, I started blogging. The two things are inextricably linked.

After several months of mentally curling up into a ball and wanting not to be … I needed a place to think what I was thinking; to feel what I was feeling; and to question what I was questioning.

This blog became that for me … and more:

  • It helps me be who I am and become who I am becoming
  • It helps me to feel what I feel
  • It helps me question what I believe and remember what I know
  • It takes me deeper into myself; into God; into living

In a way … it saved (and is saving) my life.

Maybe you think that’s a bit dramatic, a bit over the top … but what I was doing in the latter months of 2006 wasn’t living … it was existing, marking time. And who knows how long that limbo would have lasted, but my very good friend and spiritual mentor, Jon, suggested that I take up blogging – and I started writing …

  • and talking
  • and praying
  • and responding
  • and feeling
  • and healing

And even these days, from this healthier place, the weeks and months when I don’t have time (or think I don’t have time) to write, I start to free fall back into that half-life … existing without living.

** This post is an entry in the can writing keep us well – group project hosted by Confident Writing.

… I turn off the engine, open the door, pick up my briefcase … I don’t remember the drive … did I notice the ocean … hey, it’s kinda windy today …

Arriving to work on autopilot.

… back home … laundry, check … start dinner, check … homework, check … dishes, check … fall into bed and start all over again.

Autopilot is the enemy that robs my soul of the satisfaction of a life filled with hard work, meaningful relationships, family, faith, friends, music, words, ideas, dancing, laughter. When I’m on autopilot, I forget to see the people in front of me; I forget to breathe the fresh air and smell the rain-kissed earth; I forget to taste the food; feel the raindrops; relish the hugs; I forget the blessing.

Autopilot sucks.

It’s like when you’re reading a book and you get to the end of the page and realize that you have no idea what you’ve just read. Your heart wasn’t in it; your mind wasn’t on it.

That’s no way to read a story.

And it’s certainly no way to live a story. Unlike my book, I can’t go back and re-read my life. I need to pay attention this time.

No more autopilot.

This post is an entry in The Importance of Story over at Chris Brogan’s blog.

Last week we took the girls to the zoo (read about it here). Toward the end of our day, we went to the dolphin show. As we were waiting (in the front row) for the show to begin, I was watching the dolphins swim serenely around the tank … while simultaneously being bombarded by the noise of about 30 pre-schoolers in yellow hats (eventually we moved up a little). Most of the noise was about where to sit. Some of the kids wanted to sit up higher, while others thought it would be better to sit lower. And they were all operating under the assumption that the loudest voice wins.

In the background you can see a different, green-hatted group ...

You can see a similar, green-hatted group in the background here ...

But I was sitting there, marking the difference between what was happening in front of me and what was happening behind me. And I was thinking … I want to live where the dolphins are swimming. They aren’t worried about what they might miss later; they are enjoying what they are doing right now. They don’t seem to be crying for the wide ocean they’ve lost; they are enjoying the refreshing pool they have now. They aren’t chattering and arguing and complaining; they are swimming, and smiling, and enjoying.

  • Maybe I can spend less time worrying about what I might miss, and more time enjoying what I have.
  • Maybe I can spend less time thinking about what I don’t have and more time enjoying the ocean of blessings surrounding me.
  • Maybe I can spend less time complaining and arguing and convincing, and more time listening, and smiling, and enjoying.

Oh, and I think I want to start swimming again …

I have a young friend, age 7, who has roots on three continents. He has only been speaking English for a little over a year. While his accent is more or less American, he speaks with a precision that is seldom found in our young people.

Yesterday, I was speaking with him after school. He was enjoying a yogurt drink. He threw the cap in the trash. (Our school collects plastic bottle caps which get recycled and the proceeds are donated to provide wheelchairs for children.) I said to him, Don’t you want to save that for the collection? He gave me a look like it would be way too much trouble to fish it out of the trash and carry it (20 steps!) to the kitchen.

I said, They use those for wheelchairs for children.

He said, in his precise English, What is a wheelchair?

It’s a chair for children who can’t walk. Like Isaac (my son).

He said, No they do not! That is too small!

I explained to him that they don’t use the actual caps, but the money they earn from them to help provide wheelchairs for children.

It was a funny moment, but it made me think. How often do I think that things are too small to bother with. My little bottle cap makes no difference. I might as well just throw it away.

Not true.

Not true with things. Not true with people.

What I have and what I am is enough. God promised me so. I just need to give it faithfully, diligently, even when 20 steps feels like too much of a bother.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

 Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little. – Edmund Burke

Here’s another:

I do it for Jesus. Mother Theresa

AlphabetAlphabet, Books, Cucumbers, Digital Cameras, Ezri, Frogs, Gardening, Hats, Isaac, Jumprope, Kites, Lazing around, Moonlight, Nature, Owls, Paper, Quiet, Robb, Shyanna, Thinking, Umbrellas, Vacation, Words, Xmas, Young people, Zeal.

If you missed part 1, go here.

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ -Jeremiah 33:3

Here’s the thing. It’s not that I think the analogy of the Bible as our “owner’s manual” or “rulebook” is wrong; it’s just that it’s so limited.barnums_animal_crackers

We want order, instructions, procedures, guarantees. If we follow the rules, we want our lives to “work out”. We want to put tab A into slot B and end up with a nice little box for our animal crackers. But, what if God wants to scatter your animal crackers across the sea? What if, for your good, he wants to let them get a little chewed up and broken? What if he gives you way too many animal crackers for your neat little box? What if he just gives you one, special one, to cherish close to your heart? (whew … talk about taking an analogy too far …)

I’ve seen people ask a question and close their eyes and point with their finger … like the Bible is a magic 8 ball. It’s not that I don’t think God can work in that way … but it is so self-focused. How do we know we’re asking the right question? We might be having a problem with a co-worker, and be so focused on that that we miss the “great and unsearchable things” God has for us.

The Bible does have guidelines for how to live, but, I think the secret to learning them, to living them is going deeper into him. If we simply look for procedures, but miss the relationship … it’s going to be mighty hard to follow the manual.

We follow, not because it’s right, but because he loved and he gave … out of love and gratitude for who he is and what he’s done. The more we know him, the more we know how.

So, maybe the right question (or at least a good question) is, may I see you in my reading today?

What do you think?

Every once in a while I hear the Bible described as an owner’s manual. Every time I hear it, it makes me cringe. I understand that analogies have their limitations, but this is a particularly puny description of the Bible.

Here’s what I mean.

The Bible is a mystery. Have any of you ever read a passage and it spoke to you one way; and another day the exact same passage speaks to you in an entirely different way? I have. A lot. How many owner’s manuals do you have that speak to you differently according to your needs?

Me neither.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The Bible is a love letter. The Bible tells us how our Creator and Father feels about us. The whole thing is a record of how he made us and how he loves us and how he made a way for us to be restored into a relationship with him. Do you have any owner’s manuals written by someone who loves you and wants you to talk to him everyday?

Me neither. P1030688

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

The Bible is a story. It’s a story about Jesus. It’s about how Jesus made us, made everything for us, and then came himself to show us how to live. It’s about what happens when we try to live without Jesus. It’s story after story that point us to Jesus, overtly and obliquely. (There’s a better explanation of this here.)
An owner’s manual is a list of instructions for optimal performance. It doesn’t challenge us to think, cause us to love, or inspire us to live well.
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

The Bible (and by the way the Christian life) is not about a list of rules: do this, and don’t do that, and you’re life will be easier, better, more productive and successful (you’ll drive a newer car and look like the models on TV). The Bible (and by the way the Christian life) is about a relationship, between Creator and creature, Father and child, Lover and loved.

Note: All italicized selections are from the Bible.









I was at the market with my friend Maria when I admired these beauties. I think I said to her, Aren’t those cool? At which she promptly bought them for me.

Unexpected blessings. The best kind.

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