Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Single-handed Theology - Baby Talk

I’ve got a little babbler on my hands. Arden is at the stage where she’s stringing syllables together, mostly “ba-ba-ba” or “da-da-da.” At this point they are random sounds, not associated with a particular concept, but they are words in an infant stage. Her favourite “word” by far is dada, and I’m trying to get her to match the sound with the reality of her Daddy.

In any language, a baby’s words for Mother and Father are simple ones – mamma, papa, dada. In Aramaic the word for Daddy is abba. Jesus taught us to speak to God as Father (pater in Greek), but we are also taught to call Him Dad, a tender term of intimacy.

Now I learned this a long time ago, but it was just this past week that I made the connection to baby talk. “Ah-ba” is something Arden says all the time. It’s one of the easiest vowel-consonant combinations there is. Before babies string consonant sounds together like “ba-ba-ba”, they will usually start with some vowel-consonant combo. Arden’s first such combo was “ah-goo”, followed closely by “ah-ba.” There’s a good reason that the Aramaic word for Daddy sounds like it does. Abba is baby talk. Anyone can say it.

The word is used 3 times in the New Testament. Jesus doesn’t use it in the presence of his disciples, at least not that we are aware of. He uses it in Mark 14:36 at a time and place of great loneliness and grief. We hear it first in Gethsemane, as he struggles to accept his Father’s will. It escapes his lips as he falls to the ground in prayer, an instinctual cry, simple syllables uttered in sorrow. It is amazing that when Jesus’ relationship with his Father is at its most strained, he uses the most intimate name he knows. It is a sound that returns to an almost pre-linguistic stage of being. This is the bond between eternal Father and only begotten Son.

We hear it again from Paul in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6. It appears as a word we learn from the Spirit of adoption, spoken within us before it is spoken by us. We are born again as sons and daughters of Jesus’ Father, and the first word we learn in this new creation is Abba. This is the basis of our relationship with God. We are His children, sharing by adoption the same bond Jesus enjoyed by nature.

"Ah-ba." Just a simple vowel-consonant combination. It sounds like babble till we associate it with the intimate reality of our Father. In this relationship, we don’t have to learn elaborate titles or complicated means of address. A vowel-less tetragrammaton is well and good for a reverent subject, but not for a child. The Unspeakable Name has been revealed, and we are to speak it with the delight and confidence of a 7 month old in Dada’s arms. When we don’t have any other words, Abba is enough.


Saturday, 25 December 2010

Letters to Arden - December 25, 2010

Dear Arden,

It’s the evening of your first Christmas Day, and you are tucked in bed after a full day of festivities. We woke up to green fields and stuffed stockings. Santa found us in Wheatley River! I’m not sure you really knew what was going on under the tree . . . but you sure loved all the wrapping paper and ribbon! All those presents tired you out, and I’ve never seen you curl up so quickly with your blanket for a nap, thumb in your mouth.

The snow began to fall as we drove to our friends’ house for Christmas dinner. You enjoyed every spoonful – potatoes, gravy, turnip, sweet potato, carrot, green beans, parsnips, and plum pudding sauce. We couldn’t get the food in your mouth fast enough!

Back home we talked with family and friends on Skype who were happy to see you in your darling red dress. There are people who love you spread all over the world. Isn’t that a lovely thought? At the end of the day you sat content, surrounded by a little pile of toys, trying each one to see what it tasted like.

When you were too sleepy to stay up any longer, Daddy read the Christmas story while I held you close. I showed you Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus from our nativity set, and you wanted to eat baby Jesus too! We put both of you to bed, you with your new woolen rabbit and him with his tiny blanket. Baby Jesus is sleeping up in your room tonight. You are both safe and warm. One day you will understand who Jesus is and why he came, but for now all you need to know is that he'll stay by your cradle till morning is nigh.

Quiet night has fallen on the island and the green fields are now covered in wonderful white, a gift from the heavens. And I feel content. Content because we are together as a family in our warm house with too many blessings to count. Content because I don’t need gifts to have Christmas. I just need you, Daddy and baby Jesus.

Oh, I hear a cry coming from upstairs. I guess you wanted Christmas to last just a bit longer! Time for one more lullaby. Away in a manger . . .


Friday, 24 December 2010

The fifth candle

We awake to pure, white light. It streams in through the windows yet seems also to shine from somewhere within the house. Is it morning? Is midnight? All the candles are burning brightly – the beckoning flicker of hope, love’s steady flame, joy’s merry blaze and the comforting glow of peace. Their flames surround us, holding us in their circle, but they pale in comparison to this fifth candle. We see now it is the source of their light.

Is it a candle or is it the sun? We rise in wonder to behold this glory. Truly, we have never seen light till this moment. This is true Light, the Light that gives life to all. The Dayspring from on high has visited us, and our eyes are open for the first time to the infinite spectrum of grace.

We search for the centre of this light, but at every turn it is just as bright. And then we are aware of a pulsing warmth, and it is radiating out of us. We look down at our chests and see that our hearts are on fire. It is the Christ-candle.

We have been led to this place, not merely to find a refuge from the weather, but so that God might make his home in us. This overwhelming dawn will be with us always. We need not fear the cold. As we step out into a world of dazzling white, we carry the Light with us.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.


Wednesday, 22 December 2010

An Advent prayer from the Northumbria Community

An evening prayer for blessing during Advent

God of the watching ones,
give us Your benediction.

God of the waiting ones,
give us Your good word for our souls.

God of the watching ones,
the waiting ones,
the slow and suffering ones,
give us Your benediction,
Your good word for our souls,
that we might rest.

God of the watching ones,
the waiting ones,
the slow and suffering ones,

and of the angels in heaven,

and of the child in the womb,

give us Your benediction,
Your good word for our souls,
that we might rest and rise
in the kindness of Your company.

~ from Celtic Daily Prayer From the Northumbria Community

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

winter solstice

A nor’easter blows across our island this winter solstice as the heavens converge in a full moon eclipse. We cannot see the blood moon for the raging storm, and if we went out, we might get blown over by banshee winds. By morning the heavy rains and surging sea have overpowered our little river and forced it backwards, past its banks and almost over the bridge. The willows wave, waist high in surrender, but the water keeps rising. We are drawn to our windows all day, to watch and wonder, glad to be looking down from our hillside situation. When night falls again the tide tugs the water back toward the ocean, and we go to bed hoping our neighbours’ basement has seen the worst of the flooding. The seasons are at a turning point, and it is as if all the dark forces of nature are fighting against the return of light. But they will not, they can not win. The sea may be falling from the sky, the shadow may gobble up the moon, but all will be put to right. The darkness will not overpower us.


The Wexford Carol

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The fourth candle

Lift up your eyes and see the fourth candle. Peace is the moon, gentle and bright. When the carols fade and we fall contented into bed, its countenance shines full upon us, a steady nightlight over the whole earth. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid, it whispers. It whispers to those who are far off, drawing them nigh, into this snug house. It settles over our hearts like falling snow, blanketing us with a comfort beyond comprehension.

Peace is what remains when the party is over, guiding us all through the silent night. Sleep my child and peace attend thee . . .


Wednesday, 15 December 2010

down at the pond

On this green December day, a warm wind blows a blue hole in the clouds. Down at the pond, the water runs swift and brown, rushing with yesterday’s rain. A blue jay darts across the pond and into the secrecy of the trees, winking as he goes by. A crow is practicing his solo for the Christmas choir, trying to smooth out the squawks. We sit on the dock, listening, watching. The sun spreads a golden tint on the rippling waves. It’s not the usual winter scene. The ground is fragrant with new clover, taking advantage of the warmth to poke smiling leaves out into the open. It’s all a little strange, but I can’t help but smile back.


Sunday, 12 December 2010

The third candle

The third candle is lit, now twinkling merrily on the mantle. Joy is a diamond, refracting and reflecting a sparkling pink light. It spreads over the room like stardust, glittering in every corner.

How is it possible for light to have the quality of music? All the colours of dawn are dancing, drawing me up out of the chair with a lightness my feet have never felt, right into some divine kitchen party. Invisible hands whirl me around the bright flame, and I am surprised to hear my own laughter after so long.

A flash of the aurora borealis answers through the window, joy calling to joy, and I am struck by the beauty of the winter night. The heavens are telling an inexpressible and glorious joy, and I am lit from within.


Friday, 10 December 2010


Be born in us today,” we sing

What is birth?
love and risk and pain
demands my body and soul
turns me inside out till there is nothing left hidden

This is birth
love made flesh
and in a miracle of creation
I am reborn


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

C.S. Lewis on the Incarnation

Here is a passage from C.S. Lewis' Miracles. The stunning imagery of this, the grand miracle, has stuck with me over the years and is fitting for our Advent consideration.

"In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature he has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders. Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour too."


Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The second candle

A second candle now bursts into flame. The winds may howl, the breakers may roar, many waters may threaten to overwhelm, but this light is unquenchable. This blazing fire, this mighty flame – love is its name.

By its light we are welcomed in, beckoned to the overstuffed chair by the hearth, and given a place by the fire. By its light the stains of midnight are banished from our souls. By its light we see that we are home.

Outside, the storm may rage and rattle the window panes, but we are safe within love's glowing radius. Yes, we are home.


Friday, 3 December 2010

green December

Green December hills
So eager when you should be sleeping
Stop your striving and let your pigment sink into the earth

I will cover you with a downy blanket
And sing you the Snow Queen’s lullaby
You will find your peace hidden beneath


Sunday, 28 November 2010

The first candle

As the darkest night approaches, we look for the single candle in the dark. Hope.

We see it faintly on the horizon, beckoning winter weary hearts. We draw near to its bright flame, and though we hobble on frostbitten toes, fingers numb from wrestling in the cold, hope’s warmth begins to thaw us. Hope’s light reminds us the dark night of the soul will not last forever.

And unlike so many vain promises, this hope will not disappoint, because it is lit with an everlasting love, the blessed assurance of One who has descended into the depths of sin’s chilling darkness and has emerged in radiant dawn.

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn . . ."


Thursday, 18 November 2010

don't clear the table

My first impulse is to clear the table. Things should be a little tidier, don't you think? Last night's dishes, this morning's now cold coffee, the rice cereal splattered all over the table and floor, the camera from taking pictures of Arden's 6 month milestone. But no. I push aside the oven mitts, the paperwork I haven't filed, and I open my Bible. This is where it fits. Because if it doesn't fit in the middle of my messy life, it's not worth opening at all.


Saturday, 13 November 2010

Solomon's echo

Yahweh be with me,
Uncontainable God, dwell with me.

Let these words rise to open ears,
let them be near to You.

Open Your eyes toward me,
for You have placed Your name within.

Incline my heart to You,
this heart that You alone know,
till it be wholly devoted to You.

Let your eyes and your heart be perpetually here.


Thursday, 11 November 2010

I remember

Today I remember…

That we cannot pretend there is no such thing as sin,
that it does not grip and destroy hearts and nations.

That the capacity for evil exists within all our hearts,
warring against all that is good and from God.

That war is hell, not glory,
that war will never save us.

Today I remember ….

Only peace will save
Only goodness will deliver
Only Love will look war in the eye and conquer death


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Letters to Arden - November 10, 2010

Dear Arden,

Today I am struck by the very fact of your existence. It’s crazy to think that not so long ago you didn’t even exist! And now you’re here, a living little creature with your own spin on God’s image. You have your own way of being in the world that is unlike any other. The way you chew your toes, the way you laugh at the cat, the way you stomp your foot, the way you reach your arms out as if to grab the whole wide world and see what it tastes like – your way is truly unique. I think I understand a little bit of what God felt like in Genesis 1. What a marvelous thing to bring something into existence! I’m giddy just thinking of who you’ll become today, tomorrow, and the next day. You’ve turned our existence upside down, that’s for sure. And you’re totally worth it.


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

strange hospitality

Wow, it’s a scorcher Abraham. Have I been here before? And by here I mean now. This day. It just feels familiar – the way the flies are buzzing, the position of the sun in the sky, the drowsy cattle. Those three guys coming toward us . . .

It is rather astonishing, even the second time around. Three strangers, three measures of fine flour, one choice calf, and one outrageous announcement. As they sat to eat beneath the trees, I couldn’t help but feel as if the tables had been turned. I don’t suppose you’ve yet heard the phrase “entertaining angels unawares.” I think you coined it. You bustled them into your home and brought out the best of your hospitality, but it is they who served you. You became the guest of the divine.

Now Sarah is doing the dishes, alternating between silence and nervous laughter. She sweeps up the bread crumbs with wrinkled hands. The air is cooling, and you are gazing into the darkening hills with a kind of glow on your countenance. Their presence still lingers. And I am left to consider the strangers in my own camp. Who will I find in their faces? I know what it is like to feel like a stranger. So I will give the invitation, and perhaps meet Yahweh at my own table.


Monday, 1 November 2010

The Body – a reflection on totus Christus

We are His body
We fill Him as He fills us

He fills and we expand
Rushing into many parts
He moves us into action
One body in perpetual motion

We fill and He expands
Limbs full of life and vigour
Open hands, lovely feet
Animated by the Spirit within us

We live and move and have our being
In symbiotic beauty

We are His body
Bruised and broken
Lazy and listless
Divided and diseased
Self-deflating in ignorance and apathy

We stumble and He falls
Sinking breathless to the ground

We are His body
Needing a miracle of surpassing greatness
The mighty power of resuscitation
To quicken this mortal body

We are His body


Friday, 29 October 2010

Single-handed Theology - Presence

Arden is lying on the couch beside me, kicking the laptop with her ever stronger feet. She’s getting tired, and it’s time for her morning nap, but she doesn’t want to be in the crib by herself. So she’s hanging out next to me, chewing her teething ring, her rattle bear, her toes. Every so often she looks over to make sure I’m still there, flashes a smile, then goes back to the conversation with her feet. She’s fed and changed. She doesn’t need me for anything in particular. She just needs to know I’m there. She needs my presence.

Presence assures her she is not alone. Presence is my gift of being, the ground of our relationship. Presence is like sonar. When she reaches out to touch me, she knows she is there.

And so amid the tasks of the day, I turn and look for God’s face. I don’t need Him to perform a task or answer a prayer. But I push into Being, and feel myself spring back. With one hand stirring the pot, playing a game, hanging the laundry, reading a book, I stretch out my fingers to Presence. In that Presence I find Father, Comforter, Friend, the assurance of my being and the assurance of my being loved. I smile.


Thursday, 28 October 2010

return to Mamre

Abraham! I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see you again, but here we are under the oaks. I’ve missed these branches. So much has happened since I saw you last! I’ve travelled a long way and I’ve seen the faces of many promises, some still in the distance, and others in my arms. In the midst of a strange place I’ve found something like home, or at least a spot in the hills to set up my tent and stay awhile. Is this how you felt? When the earth stopped shifting under your feet long enough to plant a garden? When Isaac was born? When God conjured laughter out of thin desert air?


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Intercessions - October 27, 2010

God of grace and truth,

Draw near to those caught in self-spun webs of deception. In your grace bring them to the end of their lies, cut to the quick with your two-edged sword, rightly divide between light and darkness. Reveal the wages of sin. In your truth look them in the eye and speak reality into their tangled souls, the Word that quickens and restores. Reveal the gift of life. Oh Truth most terribly graceful, reach between the bars and set them free.


Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Letters to Arden - October 20, 2010

Dear Arden,

The seasons are changing, and you are growing! Between the time you were born and the time we brought you home the leaves burst into full spring green on the trees. It seems fitting that you and the leaves arrived at the same time, colouring our world with life. You felt the apple blossom breezes and heard the river’s merry tune. When we counted your age in days the world was new again.
In summer we slept in arms’ reach with the windows open. You discovered blue, the blue of a brilliant sky and the shining sea. You walked with us along the dunes, and even dipped your tiny toes in the salty water. Summer was full to the brim with family and working on our new home and discovering a little more of you each day.
Now we look out the window into a golden world. The trees release their colours into a chilly wind, and we bundle you up again. You love to look at this big old world with blue eyes a little wiser everyday. As the leaves fall, I can’t help but want to slow them down, to show you every shade of your first autumn, to preserve the perfect look on your face, the size of your hands grasping my fingers.
You change with each season, growing, giving us more to love. I can’t pick my favourite season, they are all so beautiful. I think the perfect day will always be “today,” this present moment, the colour of now.


Monday, 11 October 2010

Northern Thanksgiving

I remember
The smell of the wood fire in the crisp air and the turkey slowly roasting
Mom making magic in the kitchen to the tune of pots and pans
The guest list of friends and people who didn’t have anywhere else to go
A northern family cobbled together
Stuffing ourselves with turkey, ham and laughter
Always laughter

Then, the walk outdoors in fading light
Naked trees giving us a path of crunchy leaves
Brown grass, cold noses, maybe even snow
Our full stomachs leading the way to the boardwalk
We survey the mighty river and wrap our scarves a little tighter

Back home there is dessert and more dessert
Men in the kitchen doing dishes
Candles burning, fire crackling
Lazy lounging on the couches, the floor
Making our own fun and mischief
Waiting till it’s late enough for hot turkey sandwiches

Mostly I remember that indescribable quality attending the table
The combination, the culmination of things made and passed and shared
The openness of our home, of people to each other
Of bringing all we knew of warmth and abundance into one place
Scattered and gathered on the back of a north wind
And thankful


Saturday, 9 October 2010

I Will Give My Love an Apple

In honour of our 5th anniversary, which was October 1st, here is a traditional song we had featured as a poem at our wedding reception.

I will give my love an apple without e'er a core
I will give my love a house without any door
I will give my love a palace wherein he may be
And he may unlock it without any key

My head is the apple without e'er a core
My mind is the house without any door
My heart is the palace wherein he may be
And he may unlock it without any key

all my love to Micah


Friday, 8 October 2010


I had a dream
where I held something too tightly and it began to strangle me
where I searched for the past and found only this note:

Loosely, loosely hold your treasures
Though they wrap you in comfort and sweeten your dreams
Loosen your grasp, lest you become possessed
Cling only to Christ and he will place the good before you
Cling only to Christ though the separation makes your heart ache
Cling only to Christ till you are bound to him alone
Till all your treasures are hidden in his heart


Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A thought from St Julian of Norwich

"… I saw that God was everything that is good
and encouraging …

God showed me in my palm
a little thing round as a ball
about the size of a hazelnut.

I looked at it with the eye of my understanding
and asked myself:
‘What is this thing?’

And I was answered:
‘It is everything that is created.’
I wondered how it could survive
since it seemed so little
it could suddenly disintegrate into nothing.

The answer came: ‘It endures and ever will endure,
because God loves it.’

And so everything has being
because of God’s love."

St Julian of Norwich

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


Learning the steps of this gospel
Its rhythm and meter
Its lyric and rhyme

The narrow way
The decrescendo into death
The swelling rise and thrilling descant
Into a riotous rondo of life

It invites the eager, the clumsy
Turning two left clods
Into feet made lovely by good news

Drawn by a love of pure movement
Simple steps train the sole
Into a disciplined dance
Made beautiful as burgeoning strength
Gives rise to liberated limbs

We dance together, grasping hands
Swinging, swaying and laughing
Trying not to step on each other’s toes
Picking up the one who tumbles

It is one big pas de deux
Never taking our eyes off the one at center stage
Whose graceful movement has awakened ours
And we move with him, conforming to his body
Till we are dancers


Friday, 17 September 2010

Letters to Arden - September 17, 2010

Arden Leigh,

You are four months old this morning! You are napping just now, after having fallen asleep in my arms. In the stillness of a rainy morning, I look at your peaceful face and say your name with a quiet awe.

Your name means passionate, eager, shining. It is a name born of fire. I see it in your eyes, and my heart glows. You have kindled an ardent love within us, and it will only get brighter.

I pray you will love with passion, embrace the life God has given you with eagerness, and that the light from your soul will shine and bring warmth to the world around you.

Your middle name means meadow. A meadow is a place of joyful freedom. With the sun shining down, you can open your arms and run with the wind. You can skip, tumble, twirl and dream. You can sing with the psalmist, “He brought me out into a spacious place! He rescued me because He delighted in me!” I pray you will know God’s freedom and delight.

Your middle name is also a family name. It connects you to the wonderful people who are so happy you have been born. In this family you have a haven of love and a heritage of faith. You are part of our shared life and you will always be welcome.

And more importantly, God knows your name. You are His daughter too, and He rejoices over you with singing. I pray you will always hear when He speaks your name.

Arden Leigh. Your name is a blessing on my lips. I whisper it with wonder and gratitude, I call it with joy. We love you baby girl.

All my love,

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


Now is the day of salvation
Now is favour
Now is help
Now He listens
Now He dwells with us
Now is welcome
All of time converges in this moment
God is giving you now


Tuesday, 14 September 2010


This is miracle

The molten nature of God
Pours into my heart

Ardent, compelling

Spirit reshapes spirit
And now I live

This is love


Thursday, 9 September 2010

Christ's Letter

The Spirit dances in tendrils fluid and red,
the soul of the Word searching for expression,
living and indelible ink.

The human heart opens like a Roman tablet,
revealing a hidden surface,
soft as wax,
ready for the hand of Christ.

The letter lives,
is known and read,
telling a mystery and a pledge,
carved by the weight of glory.

2 Corinthians 2:2-3


Saturday, 4 September 2010


Watching the winds, craving the storm
Running into the atmosphere’s shift
Hoping to be uprooted
Tossed and tumbled
To catch a glimpse of your eye
Through the waves in the sky


Monday, 30 August 2010

laundry magic

Here is a lovely thought. Take your stained clothes, the ones you already put through the washing machine with stain remover (to no avail), and hang them on the line. Bring your stains to the sun, step back and watch them disappear. Just a bit of God’s magic for launderers everywhere.


Thursday, 26 August 2010

Single-handed Theology - Parenting

Typing with one hand is a little tricky. Arden sits on my lap and watches me tap this strange little contraption. I was just thinking about God’s mandate to the first humans – He tells them to become parents. There’s a big world that needs to be filled. God could have done it Himself. He could have created a whole human population. But He gives the fun of procreating and the charge of parenting to these two inexperienced creatures. Create more life! He says. See this beautiful world? Fill it up!

Perhaps in parenting we are able to mirror God’s image in a new way. We create something that is of us, yet wholly other. We learn to love someone who will bring us great joy and great pain.

This whole parenting enterprise is part of the plan. In one sense, it is what we were created to do. Create more life. Then love it.

I keep coming back to this question for some reason. Why life at all?

It must be because participating in God’s image is something worthy. It must be because love is better than non-existence.




Slow down and think about it. Step out of the whirlwind of advertising, which only feeds your covetousness. Silence the inner voices of worry and fear.

In our society, it is a hidden virtue. It does not brand itself with blinking lights or scream for your attention. It reposes in the will of God, holding a simple invitation to peace.

It is the posture of the godly, for they know to whom they belong.

Tear up your wish list. Take a deep breath of trust. Now, here is something worthy of pursuit:


Godliness with contentment is great gain.

*1 Timothy 6:11


Thursday, 19 August 2010

common prayer


In the middle of the busiest day, I pause to remember that You are near to all who call on You, all who call on You in truth. In truth, I’m a little stressed and a little worried, a little weak and a little weary. In truth, I know You are in control, always strong and never faint of heart. The truth I find hardest to believe is that You want to be near to me. But here I am, with a hammer, a coffee and a baby and only two hands. I’m calling.


Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Letters to Arden - August 17, 2010

Dear Arden,

You’re three months old and already a thief and a stowaway! You boarded this ship and snuck down the stairs, down into the deepest curves of the hull. You found the treasure chest and stole my gold – my time, my energy, my attention, my love. You moved in and strung up a laundry line of diapers and darling smiles. I know your tricks. And now, you’re sleeping in that big wooden chest, snoring contentedly as the waves sing rock-a-bye baby. You’ve curled up with my heart and I don’t think I’ll be getting it back any time soon. You can have it all little thief. Just promise you’ll never leave.


Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Single-handed Theology - I've got a craving . . .

Single-handed theology: theology inspired by motherhood and often carried out with one hand on the baby.

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." 1 Peter 2:2-3

Ever had a craving? Maybe for chocolate, or Frosty Treat ice cream, or a Big Mac, or that morning cup of coffee . . . mmm, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

I have a new appreciation for the word now that I’ve seen a newborn in action. When a newborn is hungry, you’ll know. If not by the frantic rooting and finger sucking, then by the inconsolable screams that are soon to come if you don’t get the milk in her mouth fast enough. A newborn’s craving for milk is not something that can be ignored. It’s all consuming.

So when I read this verse now, I wonder if I have the same sort of craving for soul food. Do I start to get a little crazy when I miss out on spiritual nourishment? Does my mouth water when I think of the Lord’s goodness, and does it make me search desperately for more? Of course, the craving is based in the first taste. Yes, you may have been hungry before that first experience of Jesus, but once you tasted, the pure goodness should keep you coming back for more. Have you tasted, truly drank in His goodness? And if you have, do you have that all consuming desire for more?

Too often I’m guilty of pacifier Christianity. I get a little hungry, a little dissatisfied, but instead of reaching out for the good stuff, I get distracted by something easier, the quick fix. How easily I am soothed by sticky sweet pop-culture, by the endless menu of entertainment paraded before me, and my salty self-rationalization. But it’s only temporary. There’s no long term satisfaction. So why do I keep stuffing myself with empty calories, or even a Christian-flavoured soother, when what I really need is a good long feeding from the source?

It’s time to grow up. Time to get a little frantic and drink deep.


Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Plumb - "Me"


A quiet morning spent with you
Rocking, reading, singing, feeding
Your smiles set my heart a-beating
Nothing else I'd rather do
Than share this quiet morn with you


Letters to Arden - July 27, 2010

Dear Arden,

Sometimes in the early morning, when I strip you down and hold you close, you seem to me the newborn again. Soft skin, bright eyes, fuzzy hair. You fit perfectly in my arms, and we snuggle in a shared warmth.
Sometimes I close my eyes and remember the day of your birth, May 17, 2010. You were born at 8:48 am. I don't remember that moment, but you were the last prayer of my heart in the operating room and the first thought on my mind when I woke up. You were so tiny, a gift from God wrapped in your daddy's shirt. Loving strength and warmth were his first gifts to you.
Now I look in your deep blue eyes and see ten weeks of living. They've gone by so fast! But time stands still when we gaze at each other, and I know somehow you have always been part of my heart. And no matter how big, you always will.


Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Kingdom Sentry

A raven sits atop the storm-ragged spruce, watching with one gleaming eye turned toward me. She watches through the kitchen window, peering into the mundane events of laundry and email and rinsing blueberries. She watches the seconds tick by as I make my way clockwise around the day. She must hear the baby crying, and laughing, and the songs I sing when no one else is home. She sits, a silent silhouette, a sentry over my thoughts. I leave to go to town, and when I return three hours later she is still there. Black omen or heavenly messenger? She watches, and I imagine I read her mind. The kingdom of God is found in small things. She flies away, blown by a secret wind.


Sunday, 11 July 2010

Letters to Arden - July 11, 2010

Dear Arden,

Be brave, little girl. We will follow Christ. Up the higher ways, mountains too high for us, but He will give us hinds' feet to walk on the heights. We will follow His way. We will learn His steps.

Be brave, little girl. We will love like Christ. And you are already showing me how. He is teaching me through you, and as I learn, I will let the love lessons pass to you. We will wrap love and faithfulness around us, like I have swaddled you, so they will never leave us. He will never leave us.

Be brave, little girl. We may kneel in the thorns of suffering, but love will heal. We may fall on the slippery crags, but love will raise us. We may lose our way in the dark night of the soul, but love will find us. Christ will find us, bind us to Himself.

Be brave, little girl. You are loved. You are Christ's.


Letters to Arden - July 4, 2010

Dear Arden,

Tomorrow you will be seven weeks old! Seven is the number of perfection, and you are definitely perfect. Everything good about life and existence is bundled into eight or so pounds of you.
It makes me sad and angry to think of the ways we humans degrade and destroy the life, the goodness God gives. I don't want to think that anyone will ever hurt you or take away your innocence. Yet I also know that we are each capable of being masters of our own demise. You may be perfect, but life is also broken, and my heart breaks knowing one day you will wake to pain and suffering.
When God gives us children, I think He gives us a window into His heart. His heart rejoices, breaks, all because of love. And He is the way back to Goodness when life is less than perfect. I have discovered this, and I pray you will find it to be true when you need it to be.
In His goodness, He has also gifted us to bring love into our world. Together with the Spirit, we imagine new ways of living, and loving. There is hope for our world. There is a love that will not disappoint. There is a God who is Good.
His Goodness already shines in your deep blue eyes. I can't wait to see the ways God will love through you. You have already brought so much love into our hearts. He is rejoicing over you, and so am I.
And so, in your tiny seven weeks of perfection, I pray you will know Goodness, that will know our Perfect Father's heart. I pray His heart will become yours, and mine. And I pray I will bring His love into your world.


Monday, 5 July 2010

Letters to Arden - May 31, 2010


You are here! Not the way I expected, but safely, soundly here. Becoming a mother has been baptism by tears. I cried when they told me I wouldn't be awake when you were born. I cried when I first saw your face cradled in daddy's arms. I cried through countless feedings, knowing my pain would keep you growing. I cried rocking you to sleep, because you were too beautiful for words.
And now you are starting to smile! It's a dopey smile of content mostly, right after a feeding, and in those warm moments when you are beginning to wake and haven't realized how hungry you are yet. In your smile I see glimpses of your personality, little peeks of what is to come.
And so I smile for you every day. I try to smile even when I'm in pain, when I'm tired, when I'm overwhelmed by all that is new, all that is you. I want you to see love in my face. I want you to know how happy I am that you are here.

~ lg

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Cry No More

Cry no more – spring is here
Autumn’s decay has been put to death
Neath the gentle cold of snow
And the miracle of winter is that
The wasteland of fallen dreams
Now rises strong and sweet in the veins of the trees
Your tears are water for their leaves
Leaves which burst out with a green laugh
The evidence of things unseen


Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Easter prayer

Roll away my heart of stone
Bring to life a heart of flesh
Emerging from the grave of pride
The place of my dark selfishness

Surrendered in humility
Spirit, raise me from the dead
Easter life, create in me
A heart reborn, a heart set free


Friday, 2 April 2010

holy time


A time of emptying. A time to wrestle with weakness. A time to uproot, a time to kill.

A time to deny. A time to surrender.

A time to let go.

Good Friday.

A time to abandon all earthly hope, all fleshly striving, and pride's last defenses.

A time to descend into a small dark space and await the quickening light of morning.

The only thing left is the miracle.


Friday, 5 March 2010

called living

And yet, within our ordinary lives, we hold an extraordinary treasure. We have become part of God’s life, God’s story, God’s work in the world. This weight of glory cannot be taken lightly. We each have a role to play, as individuals and as a community. We are part of a new kingdom, under the lordship of Christ, and we are to pray and work for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven.

We have each been given gifts with which to fulfill our roles. The trick is knowing what they are and how God wants us to use them. There is no self-help book or personality test that can fully reveal your role in the kingdom. This understanding comes through prayer, contemplation, practice and community. This understanding comes through the supernatural wisdom of the Spirit, wisdom which works itself out day to day as we listen to His voice.

Sometimes we can get caught up in “calling anxiety.” (Guilty as charged.) We wonder what our purpose is, whether we’re fulfilling it, whether we’re doing enough. We compare ourselves to our role models, our peers, constantly measuring ourselves by an artificial standard. We define ourselves by all kinds of standards of “success,” often garnered uncritically from pop-culture, or even pop-Christian culture. We may be losing the discipline of spiritual discernment, especially in the context of a Christian community. And so we worry and wonder, burning spiritual and emotional energy, feeling lost and ineffective.

The answer is less an answer than a process. We must be willing to enter an ongoing conversation with ourselves and the Spirit. We must be willing to take an honest look at the gifts, abilities and inclinations God has given us – including our limitations. When we submit ourselves to the Spirit, we open ourselves up to His limitless creativity. He is the one that fits our roles to our circumstances, that opens doors to new possibilities, that inspires us with new ideas. And we do not work alone. God places us in particular communities where He fits us to accomplish more together, where He gives a common vision. We must learn to listen to His voice together. What is the Spirit saying to you? What is the Spirit saying to the church?

There is no need to worry. Listen, trust, obey. It’s going to look different for everybody.

The fun thing about this is that there are no set rules. Our passions are as varied as our personalities, and God loves to ignite them with his purposes. God is a limitless being, and the possibilities are endless.

So we set out to work in the Father’s kingdom, with the Spirit alongside, living out our Lord’s prayer. It is only in this Trinitarian dynamic that we live fully.


believe in life

I have a feeling motherhood will produce an ontological change in me.

There are certain things I must believe going into this.

I have to believe in the project of life, in its goodness, its purpose, before I can be entrusted to shape one.
I have to believe that the little acts of love and care matter as much as the grandiose academic and ministerial achievements of my peers.
I have to believe that somehow being part of God's creative and nurturing process is a worthy calling in and of itself, because God loves to create life, loves to love the ones He creates, longs to embrace them and thereby transform them into loving, creative, joyful, thankful marvelous individuals.
I have to believe that I can either invite or reject God's kingdom, Christ's lordship, in my own home and relationships, in the way we raise our children.
I have to believe God loves me as much when I'm changing diapers as when I'm preparing Bible studies, and that diapers are as much his agent of transformation as theological debates.
I have to believe the way we live matters, even when that way seems tedious, or monotonous, or tiring.
I have to believe God is active in the sphere of housework, cooking, playing, talking.
I have to believe he is a present at our table, as at the altar, upon my hearth and in my garden, in observing the days and seasons.
I have to believe life is a gift worth celebrating in small ways through small joys, worth living simply because it is from God, worth living well because it is being renewed in a glorious image.
I have to believe the Spirit speaks and directs me as a mother as much as any minister, that His breath blows in my own backyard.
I have to believe in life.


Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Promise of Spring

A poem by Kate McIlhagga of the Iona Community

Pale winter sun,
flooding the earth
with your light,
gilding the bare trees
with your touch.
Your eyes
have seen
the glory
of the Lord.

Low white candles of hope
palely gleaming in the dark earth,
your advent heralds
the promise of Spring;
your green hearts
speak of God’s renewing love.

Son of God, show us the way.
Light our path.
Lead us
through this Lenten desert
to Easter with you
beyond the pain
of loss and fear.
Lead us in new ways
of trusting service.


Father of Lights

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
James 1:17

This little verse does much to instruct our way of viewing the world and life as we know it. Any misery, any death that we experience in this life does not originate in God. It originates in our willful turning, our shady attempts at self-preservation – in short, our sin – which have so permeated earthly existence. The darkness of our rebellion is lurking around every corner. Adam’s shadow falls long in our fields. Do not be mistaken; God has not brought this.

God is the originator of good, grace-full giving, of every perfection placed into our hands. Where the light shines, it is His . . . it is Him. He cannot be other than Goodness; He cannot be other than Light. There is no shadow of turning with Thee. And He continues to share His brightness with us – in the steady sunrise, in shared laughter, in the majesty of the soaring eagle, in the miracle of birth, in the rainbow that drips with liquid life. He pours His faithful Light into us, throwing open the shutters over our souls so that it may even shine out of us.

We do not live in sunlight at every moment. There is a day yet to come when darkness will be extinguished forever. But we are signs and flares in the sky that new creation has begun, that Goodness and Love are the true realities.

With this in mind, we welcome every good thing as a beam of our Father’s nature. And life is full of good and perfect things. Green grass, snowy nights, evening fires, morning glories. They are not mundane. They are not meaningless. They are opportunities to recognize the Author and Perfector of life, to stretch out our arms to a steady heaven in childlike thanksgiving. He is here in our daily rhythms, our rising and lying down, our work and play, our families and friends. Open your eyes to the Father of Lights.


Wednesday, 17 February 2010

life is love

At its core, life has to do with love.

The creative love of God, which fashioned us out of dust and gave us breath. The redemptive love of God, which plunged into our icy depths and brought us up from the grave. The transformative love of God, which fashions us into a new image.

Through Christ we are joined to the life of God, and God is love.

Love is our ultimate good. To love God with all that we are, this is the sunnum bonum of our existence. To love those God has placed around us, this is the natural extension of our first love.

Love is the highest virtue, the basis from which all good things flow. It is poured into our hearts from above, a supernatural infusion of the Spirit, the fertile ground for godly fruit. Without love we are nothing.

Love is concrete, embodied. It must take form at our kitchen tables, in our families. We cannot choose those whom we love, nor do we love “everybody” in some vague general feeling of goodwill. We must love the child in our arms, the neighbour next door, the person in the pew in front of us, the coworker who talks behind our backs.

As we love, we are transformed and we become agents of transformation. As we live in love, we live God’s way. God’s way lives among us.


Monday, 15 February 2010

why life?

As a baby bumbles around my belly, I am left to wonder . . .

Why has God given us life? Why has he asked us to be fruitful and multiply? What is the point of our life on earth?

His original intent, now shrouded by a veil of sin, lies in the early chapters of our human history. Created in his image, created to be blessed. Created to bring more life into the world, to fill the world, to subdue and have dominion over it. Created to till and tend the earth, to continue the cultivation of God’s own garden. Created to recognize breath and food and water as his gifts, to receive the earth’s nourishment with thanksgiving. Created to explore and name the world around us. Created as male and female, to be together, to help each other. Created to converse with the Creator, to choose to trust and obey. Created without shame.

God created a good and beautiful world, breathing into us good and beautiful life. And then he endowed us with the ability to create, to share in his image and work. We tend and tame the natural life placed around us. We create more human life. God must love life, the abundant diversity of living and growing things. He passes this love to us, this capacity, this gift. In a sense, our purpose is simply to live, to breathe. And we are to do it together.

But, of course, things have become far more complicated. We may never know the sort of life our primal parents may have lived had the serpent’s temptation been disregarded. What would God’s ideal family and society have looked like in the peace of the eternal garden? We are left to pick up the pieces of a shattered world, a tattered image.

But we have not been left alone. The ultimate question – why life at all? – is and must now be answered in Christ. He came to show us the way. Just as we look at Adam to define our origins and original purpose, as well as the consequences of turning away from our Creator, we look at Christ as the Second Adam to define what our new life and renewed image looks like. In Christ we are not simply going back to Eden. He is not only a remedy; in Him life takes on a new dynamic. The incarnation really has changed everything. Our Edenic mandate is still valid, but it is also elevated. We are moving forward as members of a new creation, a new covenant, a new purpose, all in Christ.

So as I think of becoming a mother, of sharing somehow in God’s creative and nurturing work, I wonder how my life will change. I wonder how my purpose as a human in Christ will be fulfilled in this new role. I wonder what God’s intent for my child, my family, my home is. When life is “reduced” to caring for another tiny image bearer, what will matter most? When I look into the eyes of my new son or daughter, what will I see? How will I see God?


Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The God of Zephaniah

Some of God’s words are not pleasant to read. Zephaniah opens with a deluge of His fiery wrath against man and beast alike. In what can seem a heartless tirade, I remind myself to pause and think – why is He so angry? Who is this God?

Chapter One. God is angry because the spiritual leaders have idolatrous hearts, leading the people astray. He is angry because they are confusing the Creator with the created. The people’s loyalties are divided, turning worship into a pack of hypocritical lies and filling the temple with violence and deceit. They have neither sought Yahweh, nor inquired of him. And then, an interesting judgment – they are stagnant in spirit. In their hearts they say, “The LORD will not do good or evil.” He no longer has any bearing on their reality. And so God will judge his people.

Chapter Two. God’s anger is also directed at Judah’s enemies. For all their idolatry, Judah is still his people, and he rises to their defense. He is angry at the arrogance of the nations. They do not know God has allowed them to taunt and terrorize Judah. They sit securely in their cities, exultant in what is to a be short lived victory. In their hearts they say, “I am, and there is no one besides me.” And so God will prove himself terrifying, starving their gods until they recognize just who they are dealing with.

And yet a glimmer of hope shines through the lines of fury, hope for both Judah and the nations. To Judah he promises a remnant, safety in the caves of the coast, a restored fortune. To the nations he holds out a promise for the humble – seek the LORD, seek righteousness, seek humility, and God will provide a hiding place from his anger.

Chapter Three. God’s heart is revealed in His broken, urgent oracle. What does he desire? Heed my voice, accept my instruction, trust in me, draw near to me. Princes, judges, prophets, priests – all propagate idolatry and injustice. But the LORD will bring His justice to light in the morning, exposing shame. Just wait. God will rise up as Judge. He will assemble nations and kingdoms and pass out a cup of burning indignation. All the earth will be devoured by the fire of his zeal.

All the earth? Devoured by fire? What kind of God is this?
But his zeal is the full power of his jealous love. This devouring is not the end.

“For then I will give to the people purified lips,
That all of them may call on the name of the LORD,
To serve Him shoulder to shoulder.”

Both shame and pride will disappear in the flame. In their place, a humble and purified remnant, not left to grovel, but to rejoice without fear. Yahweh your King is in your midst; Yahweh your God is in your midst. His anger turns to a song of joy, sung over his people. The song can be heard not only in Judah and Israel, but in the ears of all those who seek him. In the safety of home, his joyful shouts mellow into a lullaby of quieting love. This is your God.

And so at the end of the book, I am left to wonder - what it is that I say in my heart about God? The words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart cannot please him without his purification. Even the ability to call on his name is a gift, wrought of fiery love. I will trust and draw near to the God of Zephaniah.


Saturday, 30 January 2010

winter sunset

Breathing in a winter sunset
Filling up my lungs with light
The world has stopped for half an instant
Showing off to my delight

Stilled, the trees repose in splendor
Laid against a pale blue sky
Clouds caressed with rosy fingers
Melt into an orb of fire

A dozen shades of white are playing
Hide and seek through field and glen
Crisp and clean, the snow a canvas
For the thoughts of God to men

Breathing in the crystal silence
Just before the nightshades fall
My heart has stopped for half an instant
Hushed to hear the winter’s call


Sunday, 17 January 2010

God welcomes you...

In keeping with the ecumenical spirit, follow this link for a reading from the Iona Community in Scotland. A good reminder that God's arms are always opened wide to welcome us.


Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Tonight we attended an ecumenical service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It was held at St. Dunstan's Basilica in Charlottetown, a beautiful Roman Catholic Church. Church unity is very much on my heart, and so I always love opportunities to gather and worship and pray with people from other churches.

It's been 100 years since the Edinburgh Conference in 1910, and this year's theme was chosen by Scotland: "You are witnesses of these things" from Luke 24. (For more information, see the World Council of Churches website.) Our very own Pastor Phil Taylor from Calvary Church presented the message. He spoke about what kind of witnesses we need to be. He said our witness must be based in personal experience with Jesus, must flow out of our character and lives, must be current and relevant, and must be united.

What struck me most during the service was the closing prayer of commitment, and I wanted to share it here.

"Take us from where we are, to where you want us to be;
make us not merely guardians of a heritage,
but living signs of your coming Kingdom;
fire us with passion for justice and peace between all people;
fill us with that faith, hope and love which embody the Gospel;
and through the power of the Holy Spirit make us one.
That the world may believe, that your name may be enthroned in our nation,
that your church may more effectively be your body,
we commit ourselves to love you, serve you,
and follow you as pilgrims not strangers."

(ACTS commitment. Taken from the Inaugural Service of
Action of Churches Together in Scotland)


Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Lady Wisdom's Invitation

Meet me at the birth of the world, among the seven pillars of an ancient house. Enter through a door of holy trembling, beneath the verdant tree. The table is set.


Book List 2009

Here it is, a list of the books I got around to reading in 2009:

The Shack - William Paul Young
The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Vol. IV
A Tangled Web - L.M. Montgomery
Heaven's Calling - Leanne Payne
Listening Prayer - Leanne Payne
The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill
Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Vol. V
The Scarlet Thread - Francine Rivers
Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings - Mary Henley Rubio
The Practice of the Presence of God - Brother Lawrence
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
Mrs. Mike - Benedict & Nancy Freedman
Evangeline - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Secret Garden* - Frances Hodgson Burnett
Late Nights on Air - Elizabeth Hay
After Many Days - L.M. Montgomery
No Great Mischief - Alistair Macleod
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger
Surprised by Hope - N.T. Wright
A Highland Christmas - M.C. Beaton
Anne of Green Gables* - L.M. Montgomery
Advent Readings from Iona

* books I re-read for fun

25 in all. Of course, there were many others I started and never finished, or have started and mean to finish in 2010! I tried to read more fiction this year, simply because I haven't read it in a long time. My theology count is a little low (recovery from MTS mode?), but there are many theological books I've skipped around in. Maybe I'll make a theological hopscotch list later.


kyrie eleison

I prayed, Lord have mercy.

And mercy came in common ways.

It came in a brand new pair of binoculars, opened before Christmas and remembered for the trip. It came in the winter stillness of tiny Ajax Forest Park. It came in tracking a grey squirrel to its nest. It came in the discovery of a white breasted nuthatch, high in a tree. It came in hearing "Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella" by the UBC Singers on CBC radio.

It came in a well-worn hymnbook, and in the soaring harmonies of "O Holy Night." It came in half an hour's pleasant conversation with family. It came in a gentle snowfall on the first day of the year. It came in a plain white envelope, in a perfect pot of gravy, in the dark mesmerizing fury of a winter storm.

God moves in merciful ways, half hidden in the snow, but nonetheless accessible to listening ears, open eyes. His ways are higher. Yet he leaves a trail through the park for us to follow, graceful footprints in the snow.

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