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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Building A Dam

I just want to put this out there:
Yesterday we (Sam, Caleb -16, Priscilla -14, Timo -10, Andrew -8, and Hannah -5) went to a creek and decided to build a small dam. Some carried big rocks, some small, some added handfuls of pebbles. One huge rock or a handful of small rocks did not build it or even hardly make a dent in it. But each tiny addition added to the success of building it. With many additions you could see small, incremental changes in the flow of water. For it to be really effective, we had to have a lot of tiny little stones, pebbles and sand. I reflected that this is a lot like life and progress. We could have left the stream alone and done nothing. But we decided to change it. We used muscle, effort, creativity and intelligence to bring about change - to create beauty, sound effects, and to marvel at our own power and work. Every small discovery, effort of big movement in a new direction can create a change in the course and flow of our lives. I was encouraged to see that the many small rocks were as necessary to progress as the big ones. I want to keep on working and discovering and finding power to change the course of the flow of life.

Of course I realize this is a work God does. At the same time, I recognized yesterday that God certainly can cause an earthquake, tornado or such - and tumble rocks into that stream that I could never muster the strength to budge. His power is of course far beyond anything I can fathom. Yet He gives me hands, a brain, abilities and creativity to involve myself in affecting change in my own life as much as a simple stream, and far more so, I daresay.

Be encouraged to know the tiny pebbles are as necessary to progress as the huge boulders. A boulder impeded the stream, but left gaps only small stones could fill. Each discovery is progress, and each exertion of effort isn't wasted. Even in failure we learn what doesn't work.

Sometimes engaging with nature opens our eyes to see what we've been missing all along...

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Pharisee I Fail to See

The Pharisee I fail to see
Is one who has no need;
Who says, "I'll help - but I won't let
You sacrifice for me!"

The Pharisee I fail to see
Is one who ponders deep -
Who sees the world, its shame and woe
And says, "I'm glad I'm free."

The Pharisee I fail to see
Is unable to receive.
She cannot ask for simple prayer
Lest she admits her need.

There might be some of these -
In Church or home (or quilting bees) -
I wouldn't know...I fail to see
Because the Pharisee is me.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Is This My Invitation?



I don't know what my life is all about -
So I get stuck in my head
Trying to figure the mysteries I live -
In wandering thoughts I lose sight of today:
I miss sunshine's warmth, the glistening dew,
Morning's fresh glow and 
The wonder of each moment.

Getting lost in my head I cannot hear
The chorus of nature - the whisper of peace.
Is this an invitation to lay to rest
Big, un-earthly questions?
To be still and sit before the busy bees, working ants
And bullfrog's rhythmic tempo?

Is this my invitation to gratitude,
To feel the Breath of life
Inspire, and respire
The sluggish spirit in me?
To receive this Breath - this intimate infusion,
This communing of my flesh-embodied spirit
With the Heavenly, Gracious,
Soul-stirring, Life-Breathing, Divine 
Spirit?

The wind blows and reminds me once again
That this power and force is only seen or known
In feeling, movement, 
Impact and effects.

I am moved, Breathed-upon,
Invited to feel and be known,
To receive and revive:
Enter the moment unhindered
Un-distracted
And enter the peace
That comes from breath,
Wind, and communion with the Divine.

Big questions will sit - floating in my cluttered mind -
Remaining as brain-chatter
Like a tornado captured inside.
But the sun rises and sets,
The birds fly south and return;
The rhythm and choir of life
Sings its original song
Each new day.

And I hear a Greater Voice
Hints of a knowing and responding:
"I do not give answers,
Because I have given Myself."

And I AM in that moment
Is Enough.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Living in Shadows


Living in shadows becomes my habit
To shelter from life in murky grey
I feel the in-between -
Seeing visions of day I still prefer
The hidden space, a comfort from blinding light
Seeking to uncover, reveal, unravel
Inner workings that would widen my sight
Perhaps too far
Too broad
Beyond what I know.

Bravely I step away from hiding -
Boldly embrace the light of day -
Cast off fear and donning courage
Open my eyes and see there is more...
A work to undertake,
A journey to make -
The pathway is for the bold, daring, foolhardy.
All caution disdained I set my face like flint
Embark to see, to know, to discover
How light shall not frighten
How Truth is a person
How I can become free in the light
Known in love
Embraced in Truth.

Living in shadows has its time, its space
But its work is to shield what can't be seen
Until such time as vision grows, heals
And light invites the courageous to enter.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What the Queen taught me of baptism

Three weeks ago, Caleb and Priscilla were baptized. I was privileged to share a few thoughts beforehand. Here is what I said:


Two words sum up what I am about to tell you: Legacy and Royalty.  Each of you getting baptized today has been handed a legacy of spiritual commitment. None of you were born with faith in Christ, but you were taught it: shaped by it.  This is your spiritual legacy.  But mere exposure does not make a Christian.

The Queen of England was eligible for her role because of her royal birth.  But sometimes one who might become King or Queen decides to go after something else – they choose to step away from the calling to the throne, and pursue their own desires.  It was over a year between the time the queen became officially queen and when she was publicly crowned in a coronation ceremony.  You have been a child of God since the day you put your trust in Jesus.  But today you are making it public – you are dedicating yourself to your calling as His child.

Much like a marriage, with lifelong vows, the queen commits herself to a life of selfless service and dedication to guarding the Christian faith, and devoting herself for the rest of her life to her country with special attention to fostering unity and stability.  One part of the coronation ceremony caught my attention:  She takes on a white robe, and then is anointed on her head, both hands and chest.

“But wait,” I hear you say. “I am not a queen. What does this have to do with me? I am not royalty!” 

 Oh?  BUT YOU ARE:

Listen to these words from 1st Peter: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The queen received and embraced her anointing.  Today the water will go over your head, your hands, and your heart.  You are recognizing yourself as wholly, fully, completely belonging to God: that your thoughts, your actions and your desires – what you love – are set apart for Christ’s kingdom.  Today you embrace and solidify your commitment to walk asroyalty the rest of your lives. You enter these waters freely because you have been drawn into God’s kingdom – you have come to know Him as your Father.  And by doing so you proclaim publicly that you embrace this calling; that you welcome this process of being set-apart for whatever He has for you the rest of your lives.

I want you look on this day as a turning point in how you see yourself.  That you will move forward in your spiritual life with a different outlook, with the identity of ROYALTY. Today this ceremony – much like a coronation – or crowning, is where you publicly assume the identity you have already received.
Today you are marked with a new identity.  You areroyal children of the King.

Unlike marriage, where commitments can be broken by both parties, you have entered a secure relationship with God Who promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 

It is a bold, daring and audacious thing to say, “I identify with Jesus Christ for the rest of my life.”  Yet you have every reason to do so – drawn by His amazing love, to fellowship with Him, to receive His ongoing grace, forgiveness, friendship and presence in your lives, you say, “Count me IN! Sign me up!”

 It is the most wise, obvious commitment to enter – because you are KEPT by Him, LOVED and WELCOMED as His precious child. He KEEPS you.

LEGACY.  And ROYALTY. 

You have been given both.
Don’t forget who you are. 

You are His child, clothed in royal robes, a precious possession, so very loved.

Walk as His children. 

Walk as royalty.

  And know that you fully belong to Him.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

3 Words in Retrospect on 2016

This is what I wrote just a week ago, on Dad's 77th birthday.

Tuesday, 3rd January, 2017

Today Dad would've been 77 years old - and he would tell me that he had attained perfection eleven times over (7 being the number of perfection)!  The grief and missing him comes in waves - tears cannot be restrained and emerge when I'm alone, driving to pick up kids or wishing I could watch him blow out candles on the traditional Crutchfield birthday cake.

Last year I decided to form my year around 3 words - to orient me, to clarify where I was at or what was/were going to be my theme(s).  I found myself with an uncanny (and unusual, for me) drive to clean - toothpick clean - and found cleaning to be both therapeutic and frustrating at the same time.  The word "CLEANING" emerged for me as a picture of much needed backlog of internal soul-work that had been left untouched. I had prayed for God to lead me to the three words I needed for the year.  And on the threshold of last year I entered a cleaning-binge-phase and was given a clue.  Because in scrubbing and bending and stretching and moving in uncomfortable (even unnatural) ways (to reach hard to clean places) I discovered more dirt and dust-bunnies needing attention.  And the work and progress seem so hidden - not tangible or provable.  And I meditate and see with new eyes how much dedication it takes to clean - how much grit, strength, determination and flexibility it will take - and I am defeated.  I quit, complain, give up, brawl in bed and declare my own lazy nature to myself.  Cleaning of soul and house takes far more than I've got to give.  So often I literally (in the proper use of the term) want to throw in the towel.  And in the non-literal, metaphorical sense, the same applies.

  Cleaning seems absolutely pointless - you can never stay on top of it.  It feels like trying to wash a mud-caked elephant with a toothbrush - a monumental and daunting task only the fool-hardy, ridiculously ambitious types would dare to tackle.  But cleaning has been my calling - and though I've no real evidence to show for it (our house too often resembles a pig sty!), I will continue to work towards physical and emotional cleanliness - heart-hygiene that becomes a habit.

My second word for 2016 was knitting.  I wasn't looking for great profundities here.  Just concepts to help me identify myself - what I do, think, and am - in essence.  My inner self escapes me at times.  She runs off to hide and I feel only a shell of a person.  Knitting is repetitive, pointless, boring, cathartic and forgiving (all what I need).  It is hypnotic - can lull me into a trance where I see, know, feel and think absolutely nothing - and everything - at the same time.  It is mind-emptying (not in the dangerous, mystical sense, but in the 'leave room to hear God's voice' sense) - a great pause - "mental-margin," I call it.   I have had a great backlog of need for mental-margin.  Mental-margin is where as a child Id gaze out the window on a bus ride and see trees and rocks and people and cars and clouds and sunshine and children in school jogging-suit uniforms with Filipina maids hustling them along.  Mental-margin is watching sparrows flock to crumbs fallen on the pavement and pick a fight over them.  It is day-dreaming in the rain and welcoming the endless hours of downpour - yearning for the sky to release its weight of liquid cleansing so the soul can be both glad, sad and free of the tumult churning within.  I have missed mental-margin.  You don't get it when kids bicker in the car or when one of them has his umpteenth meltdown of the week.  There is no mental-margin in days taxed with the needs of heel-nippers all around.  I had been depleted - lost any sense of grounding - couldn't tell who I was, or what I cared about.  Knitting forces and creates mental-margin.  It seems like an utter waste of time - any item could be gotten far cheaper at a thrift store I suppose.  But the point is not in what is made.  The point, for me, is creating mental space for rest, catharsis, imaginings and reflection.  God made me to have busy hands, for that is where my mind becomes free.  So He gave me the word "KNITTING" to shape my year.

  The third word took much time to come to.  It wasn't until halfway through the year that I saw it  emerging on the landscape of my life.  'Cleaning' and 'Knitting' came quickly, and obviously and were so simple I almost discarded them.  "Surely not, Lord," I thought - "Don't you have something more profound, biblical, theological or purposeful than these?"  But these kept echoing in my thoughts, habits and heart.  So I just said, "Okay, whatever. Makes no sense to me... But what's my third word?  What about 'hope' or 'joy' or 'peace' or some virtue I can grow in?"  (Couldn't He lead me to one of these words to somehow redeem the mundane and ordinary words of 'cleaning' and 'knitting'?)

  In March I experienced the most awful, gut-wrenching event of my life.  My Dad was suddenly gone from this world to his eternal home.  My heart was torn in two - I could not take it in.  I kept waiting to wake up from the nightmare.  I was introduced to a kind of grief and loss I'd never before encountered.

  As the weeks and months unfolded I entered an unfamiliar realm: the descent into the desert of grief.  Only now is the reality setting in - the dull, pulsing ache of sorrow.  Each month takes me farther from when I last saw him, hugged him, heard his voice.  Each change is clouded with missing his involvement - a birthday, an achievement, a kid playing in a recital, a performance at Christmas - all of these feel sad because I won't be reporting to Dad how they went.

  Grief is like a river - sometimes slow, sometimes turbulent, sometimes dangerous and scary.  But it always moves.  It is always carrying me along to somewhere.  At times the movement is imperceptible, but beneath are steady currents that are strong and powerful.  The stillness on the surface is deceptive because deep down torrents are raging and moving to a place of explosive power.

  And my third word for 2016 crashed onto my life, an unwanted guest whose imposing presence intruded on me without permission.  This guest, "GRIEF" has come to stay - not as a guest, or even an unwanted intruder - but as a companion, a counselor and an invitation to communion with the Divine.

Cleaning.
          Knitting.
                      Grieving.

All take time.  All can be frustrating.  All require strength, grit, patience and reflection.

In 2016 God invited me to reflect and re-acquaint myself with Him in His work - in me - patiently stretching me to find pockets of unreached, untouched junk, giving me space and time to weave pointless projects (a hat, a scarf, a blanket - though it wasn't the thing that was the point of it), but mostly to re-discover mental-margin and His voice that is heard in such stillness.  And He drew me into the work of grieving, to engage with Him in my sorrow and loss and journey into the reality that He binds up the brokenhearted.

  He gave me my 3 words in 2016.  And as I open the book on another year, I wonder what 3 words will anchor, define and clarify life for me this year.  I'll ask God to show me, and open my ears for His response.  I am confident He'll show me His words for me.  How can I be so bold, so confident?  Because He defines Himself as the WORD - and has said He will never leave me nor forsake me.  The living WORD gave that promise to His own.  So I will boldly trust that He will walk with me into this New Year.