Sunday, December 28, 2008


"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the Lord has helped us." I Samuel 7:12

I am sitting here in my usual spot in my peaceful home with my husband and girls sleeping. As tired as I am, I have been craving this time and space to be alone after days of Christmas activity. I have always loved the week between Christmas and New Years. I love the idea of "tabula rosa", a blank slate. I love to get organized and make lists of things to accomplish in the coming months. I don't really make resolutions, but I do set goals and realistic steps to meeting them. Even more than looking forward I am challenged to reflect on the past year and all God has done in my heart and life.

In Keri Wyatt Kent's new book REST she tells about a ritual her mentor, Sibyl, practices with her family. "So sometimes on Sundays, when Sibyl and her husband, Dick, gathered their children (and often guests who were living in their home temporarily) around the table for dinner, they'd pull out a bowl with smooth stones in it. They'd read the story from I Samuel and then give each person a stone, noting that they were Ebenezer stones, meaning, "God has helped us thus far." Then they'd ask each person to answer the question, "Where has God helped us this week?" As each child and adult told their story, they would place their stone in the bowl, thereby building a little altar of remembrance to remind each other that God does help and always will help.

We are hardwired to love stories. And this simple exercise is a way to let people tell their stories. It's a way of praying without droning on, without eyes closed. It invites participation, rather than demanding stillness from restless children. It asks us to engage rather than just be quiet.

When we answer the questions, Where has God helped us? Where have you noticed Him? we are reminded of His work in our lives and how we joined in that work. We are gathering evidence, solid as stones, to confirm what we long to know: He is helping us; He is worthy of our praise.

I am a lover of ritual. I was taught as a child that much religious ritual breeds Christians just "going through the motions." I am sure that may be true in some cases, but I need the structure of going again and again to a place and repeating truths and practices that over time become more than words and actions but life blood. Just like the ritual Delaney and I have had as long as I can remember of verbalizing what we are thankful for every single night before we pray, I love this idea of dialoguing in an even more specific way how faithful our God is. I love the symbolism of the stones. I want an Ebenezer in my home.

Thank You for Your constant faithfulness. Help my life to be an altar of praise and thanksgiving to Your loving kindness as I look forward to a new year. Help me to teach my children to be able to articulate Your goodness and grace and give You glory in all things.

Monday, December 22, 2008

O Simplicitas

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." II Cor 8:9

The Christmas message at church yesterday was on this verse. In my stress of so much work this morning, I open my Bible to read these words again and meditate for a moment on their truths. I am hungry for time to just be still with wonder at the incarnation of my God. Still reading Madeleine's writings and poetry I find this:

An angel came to me
and I was unprepared
to be what God was using.
Mother I was to be.
A moment I despaired,
thought briefly of refusing.
The angel knew I heard.
According to God’s Word
I bowed to this strange choosing.

A palace should have been
the birthplace of a king
(I had no way of knowing).
We went to Bethlehem;
it was so strange a thing.
The wind was cold, and blowing,
my cloak was old, and thin.
They turned us from the inn;
the town was overflowing.

God’s Word, a child so small
who still must learn to speak
lay in humiliation.
Joseph stood, strong and tall.
The beasts were warm and meek
and moved with hesitation.
The Child born in a stall?
I understood it: all.
Kings came in adoration.

Perhaps it was absurd;
a stable set apart,
the sleepy cattle lowing;
and the incarnate Word
resting against my heart.
My joy was overflowing.
The shepherds came, adored
the folly of the Lord,
wiser than all men’s knowing.
-Madeleine L’Engle

Thank you for Your wise plan, my King becoming a child in a manger so I could be rich beyond measure. Help me live every moment of my life as a sacrifice of thanksgiving for the wealth I have in You.

Monday, December 15, 2008


This time of the year
the new-born child
is everywhere
planted in madonnas’ arms
hay mows, stables,
in palaces or farms,
or quaintly, under snowed gables,
gothic angular or baroque plump,
naked or elaborately swathed,
encircled by Della Robbia wreaths,
garnished with whimsical
partridges and pears,
drummers and drums,
lit by oversize stars,
partnered with lambs,
peace doves, sugar plums,
bells, plastic camels in sets of three
as if these were what we needed
for eternity.

But Jesus the Man is not to be seen.
There are some who are wary, these days,
of beards and sandalled feet.

Yet if we celebrate, let it be
that He
has invaded our lives with purpose,
striding over our picturesque traditions,
our shallow sentiment,
overturning our cash registers,
wielding His peace like a sword,
rescuing us into reality,
demanding much more
than the milk and the softness
and the mother warmth
of the baby in the storefront creche,
(only the Man would ask
all, of each of us)
reaching out
always, urgently, with strong
effective love
(only the man would give
His life and live
again for love of us).

Oh come, let us adore Him–
Christ–the Lord. -Luci Shaw

Friday, December 12, 2008

Glorious Impossibles

And the angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you. And the Holy Thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.” What an amazing, what an impossible message the angel brought to a young girl! But Mary looked at the angel and said, “Be it unto me according to your word.” And so the life of Jesus began as it would end, with the impossible. When he was a grown man he would say to his disciples, “For human beings it is impossible. For God nothing is impossible.” Possible things are easy to believe. The Glorious Impossibles are what bring joy to our hearts, hope to our lives, songs to our lips. -Madeleine L’Engle

I wonder how different my life would be if at every word of the Lord I answered as Mary did, "Be it unto me according to your word." When I look back over the last year and how many "impossible" things God has accomplished in my world I have only praise for my Father who works His perfect will in the everyday miracles of His saving love and sustaining grace. Our move to Ohio, God's provision of jobs for Dan and I, our home, our health, and daily manna--these all seemed impossible just a year ago. Yet, just as in the birth of our Savior, God's plan was already made and His promises were sure.

Thank You for choosing to work Your will through glorious impossibles. Please help me to take You at Your word and dwell in peace that passes understanding and joy unmeasured.

The Gift of Gifts

O Source of all Good,
What shall I render to Thee for the gift of gifts,
Thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, Proxy, Surety, Substitute,
His self-emptying incomprehensible,
His infinity of love beyond the heart's grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
He came below to raise me above,
He was born like me that I might become like Him.

Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on wings of grace,
to raise me to Himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
He united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to Him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
He came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father,
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer's face,
and in Him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born Child to my heart,
embrace Him with undying faith,
exulting that He is mine and I am His.

In Him Thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.

Arthur Bennett, ed. Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 16.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mary's Song

If you have never read Luci Shaw's poetry you must find her book Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation. This, one of my favorite of her poems, reminds me of why "He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." II Cor 5:21

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast

keep warm this small hot naked star

fallen to my arms. (Rest...

you who have had so far to come.)

Now nearness satisfies

the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies

whose vigor hurled a universe. He sleeps

whose eyelids have not closed before.

His breath (so light it seems

no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps

to sprout a world. Charmed by doves' voices,

the whisper of straw, he dreams,

hearing no music from his other spheres.

Breath, mouth, ears, eyes

he is curtailed who overflowed all skies,

all years. Older than eternity, now he

is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed

to my poor planet, caught

that I might be free, blind in my womb

to know my darkness ended,

brought to this birth for me to be new-born,

and for him to see me mended

I must see him torn.