Friday, 30 December 2011

Book List 2011

Here is my completed book list for this past year! My count is actually up from last year. (I must have taken advantage of Arden's excellent napping routine!) The list includes many "children's" books (some read aloud to Arden), but I happen to think they are written just as much for adults and make up an essential part of any serious reader's library. :)

The tally:
20 fiction
10 theology/Christian life nonfiction
3 general nonfiction
33 Total

Anne of Windy Poplars (LM Montgomery)
Anne’s House of Dreams (LM Montgomery)
The Great Dance (C. Baxter Kruger)
Love the One You’re With (Emily Giffin)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver)
Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
Church, World and the Christian Life (Nicholas Healy)
The Abolition of Man (CS Lewis)
The Challenge of Easter (NT Wright)
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (CS Lewis)
The Silver Chair (CS Lewis)
Now We Are Six (AA Milne)- read aloud to Arden
Little House in the Big Woods (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Farmer Boy (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Winnie-the-Pooh (AA Milne)- read aloud to Arden
The House at Pooh Corner (AA Milne)- read aloud to Arden
On the Banks of Plum Creek (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Cinderella Ate My Daughter (Peggy Orenstein)
By the Shores of Silver Lake (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
The Long Winter (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
After You Believe (NT Wright)
One Thousand Gifts (Ann Voskamp)
Little Town on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
These Happy Golden Years (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
The First Four Years (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Habits of a Child’s Heart(Valerie E. Hess & Marti Watson Garlett)
Faith Begins at Home (Mark Holmen)
The Eagle of the Ninth (Rosemary Sutcliff)
Room (Emma Donoghue)
The Wilder Life (Wendy McClure)
On the Incarnation (St. Athanasius)
At the Heart of the Gospel: Suffering in the Earliest Christian Message (L. Ann Jervis)

Various Fairy Tales including:
East O’ the Sun and West O’ the Moon (George Webbe Dasent, illustrated by PJ Lynch)
The Snow Queen (Hans Christian Andersen)
The Twelve Dancing Princesses (illustrated by Kinuko Y. Craft)

And of course countless board books and picture books!


Monday, 26 December 2011

The Coming Again

This is miracle – that he comes again.

Now, even while I am running, he comes out of the warm house,
door flung open, running after me,
bare feet, short sleeves in the cold night.
He is smiling, white teeth flashing in the dark, eyes sparkling,
lit up with a strange joy,
all the more shocking when I realize it is joy to see me.

But how can this be?
How can he come again even when the No has just escaped my lips, and I am still escaping him?
How can he be standing here on the icy ground with that grin, stopping me in my tracks with that light in his eyes?
How can grace be so ridiculous?

His feet must be freezing. And the cold squeezing my chest begins to melt.
He is here – no matter where I run, he just keeps running too.
He just keeps coming.
Here, to me, with me.

This is the miracle of Christmas. That he comes again and again.


Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Coming

You came, and I ran away.
I tried, I tried to say yes, but I’m no Mary.
I don’t know how to make room when everything else is crowding in.

All this waiting, and I was not ready.

And now what?
Will you come again?
And if you do,
will you create the space that can open up to let you in?
Will you make me Mary?


Monday, 19 December 2011

a time for longing


I put myself in the place of longing. Back to a time before God pulled on the clothes of earth, back to our own nakedness. I remember the cries of a people enslaved – how long, oh Lord? I imagine the dark of the silent shadow, empty ears, blind eyes. I turn back the pages and enter the story that began before my own. I do this to remember where we came from, who we were without Him. I do this so joy will be all the sweeter in the morning.

But the time of longing is not only past. The earth groans still beneath my weary feet, aches with the weight of a laboring world. For glory shone around, but glory also resides in the hidden places – the crook of a musty manger, the splinters of a shameful cross. In this time, sorrow and singing mingle together, yet hope’s song can always be heard above the rest. We are still waiting for another advent, when heaven and earth will be united once and for all in the God-Man.

Oh Emmanuel! Come, come . . . 


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The beginning of giving

No, I’m not against giving to the needy. But I struggle with my own motivations for giving at Christmas.

I know I’m selfish right to the core. I know that selfishness strips me of wealth in the end, till I am wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I know the only way out is to open my hands, to release even the little I am hoarding because I feel it is barely enough for me. Because held too close, gold turns to ashes and fine clothes to rags.

And sometimes Christmas is the thing that pries a few fingers open and lets in some light.

And sometimes Boxing Day is only the return to clenched fists for another year.

Why am I willing to give away Christmas cookies but not make my life bread for others year round? I don’t want to be a hypocrite.

I want to grasp the nature of a servant, the humility of the Incarnation.

I need to remember that I have been the one to say “no room,” to say “no womb,” to God.

But still he comes to closed doors, closed hearts, closed hands and offers himself.

I must be like Mary. How can this be? I do not have the capacity to give. But my yes to this mystery makes a space within, a space for a seed that will grow into a harvest that will become bread to be broken and given away.

So I say, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord.” Christmas is only the beginning, and who knows how this life within will stretch and overtake me.

“Be it unto me according to Thy Word.”


Saturday, 26 November 2011

Advent Playlist

Sometimes, I need to wait. I need the anticipation, the longing, the not-yet-here, so I can rejoice fully when fulfillment arrives.

I love Christmas music. Not Rudolph and Chestnuts Roasting so much as the sacred and celebratory songs of Christ. It's just the best music! I can't possibly wait till Christmas Day to turn on the tunes, like some people who celebrate Advent do. But this year I made an Advent playlist. It's for the beginning of Advent, and for the days I want to feel longing instead of celebration. I found it a bit challenging to find Advent specific songs, but here's what I've come up with from my music library.

Messiah: Overture - Handel
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus - Chris Tomlin (Glory In the Highest)
Veni Veni Emmanuel - Hayley Westenra (Winter Magic)
Mao Tzur (Rock of Ages) - Fred Penner (The Season)
Forever Will I Sing (Psalm 89) - John Michael Talbot (25 Songs of Christmas Vol 2)
Messiah: Comfort Ye My People - Handel
Messiah: Every Valley Shall Be Filled - Handel
Messiah: And the Glory of the Lord - Handel
When the Time is Right - Ginny Owens (One Silent Night)
You'll Come - Hillsong Chapel (Yahweh)
Messiah: Behold a Virgin Shall Conceive - Handel
Messiah: O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion - Handel
He Shall Be Born - Wendy & Mary (25 Songs of Christmas Vol 2)
I Choose You - Rachel Lampa (One Silent Night)
My Soul Magnifies the Lord - Chris Tomlin (Glory in the Highest)
The Magnificat - John Michael Talbot (25 Songs of Christmas Vol 2)
O Come O Come Emmanuel - Instrumental (One Silent Night)
Breath of Heaven - Point of Grace
Messiah: Come Unto Him - Handel, National Philharmonic Orchestra (25 Songs)
Liese Rieselt Der Schnee (Softly Falls the Snow) - Fred Penner (The Season)
Dona Nobis Pacem - Yo-Yo Ma (Songs of Joy and Peace)
Messiah: For Behold a Darkness Shall Cover the Earth - Handel
Messiah: The People That Walked in Darkness - Handel
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence - Fernando Ortega (Storm)
Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) - Chris Tomlin (Glory In the Highest)

-Messiah selections recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra & Choir unless noted otherwise

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Bah Humbug? Challenging Christmas

Is it just me, or does Christmas seem to be mostly about spending money?

Gifts, parties, decorations, feasts, cards, fancy clothes, photo shoots, more gifts – it all costs money. It’s what we’ve become accustomed to. We anticipate the December stress of stretching our budgets and paying off the excess in January, or February. Consumerism is all around us this time of year, and we all buy into it. There are things you just need in order to have Christmas. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without _______________ (fill in the blank). And the price tag ends up being ___________ (fill in the blank).

Many Christians have become uncomfortable with the hijacking of Christmas by consumerism. And so we try to do something different. Instead of Christmas being all about us and what we get, we want to share some joy with others. This is truly a noble intention. After all, Christmas is about God giving Himself to us, so we want to give something to others.

But what are we giving?

We see others in need at Christmas. The obvious disparity between our lavish celebrations and their lack of means makes us feel especially conflicted, so we want to do something. We want to be better people, we really do.

But it seems to me that we are just giving the “needy” the same consumerist Christmas we ourselves are trying to escape. Now, instead of buying gifts for family and friends already overloaded with stuff, we give the needy stuff. Isn’t it too bad that they don’t have a mountain of toys under their tree? No problem, we’ll supply the mountain of toys. Because that’s what Christmas is all about, right? We can’t have Christmas without the turkey and presents and lights and chocolate and singing, dancing Hallmark toys, and neither can they.

So we’ve traded in one form of spending for another. Instead of spending on our family, we have to give to charities that will spend money for other people. You want to escape your selfish consumerism this year? Easy, just spend more money on _______ noble cause. But it’s still about the money.

I know, I’m sounding Scrooge-like. It sounds like I’m making up excuses for why I don’t want to open my wallet to others. But I honestly feel exhausted thinking about all the money I should be spending on charity to show that I know what Christmas is really all about.

It’s not that giving is bad. It’s not that these charities are bad. But what are we giving and why do we feel the need to give in this way at Christmas in the first place?

I read posts like this by a good friend, and I am truly challenged. Greed, stinginess, selfishness, hoarding – these are all markers of our society, things which should not mark the people of God. This is not what marked the Gift at the manger.

So what is Christmas about anyway? Why do we give gifts in the first place?

We can trace it back to good people like Saint Nicholas, who gave to the poor at this time of year. Of course, our Western Santa and his bulging sack is one bloated mutation. And we say we give to others in honor of God’s gift to us. But maybe sometimes His gift gets a little obscured beneath all the others…

To be honest, I really like giving and receiving gifts. But I’ve never really challenged the practice before in my own life. It’s tradition. It’s a wonderful way to make a connection with family far away and the ones around the tree; it’s one of those ways to show love. And you can get some really cool stuff! But is it necessary to Christmas?

Is gift giving essential to the celebration?

Because celebrate we should. God incarnate come to dwell with us? That’s worth celebrating!

So the question becomes, how do we celebrate this coming of God? How do we celebrate in a way that is fitting to the event we mark?

Is it fitting to plunge ourselves into a pit of spending and consumption and not come out until we are at least 5 pounds heavier and several hundred dollars in debt? Is this the best we can do?

We get many of our ways of celebrating from various traditions all over the world, many of them adapted from pagan and cultural practices surrounding the winter solstice. This is why we have lights and bring various evergreens into our homes. Do I have a problem with that? No, actually. I don’t think culture is something that is thrown away when Christ arrives. Christ redeems culture. Instead of tossing the Christmas tree as a pagan object, the symbolism of the tree is fully realized in Christ, and we can transform this tradition into one which points to Christ as the one who ever lives in the midst of our winters.

There are countless other beautiful traditions and expressions of the season, many meaningful ways to celebrate, to mark this holy day. I'm not saying strip your house bare and sit in silence.

But I think our main approach to Christmas should be found in the pages of the Christmas story itself.

Here’s what I see.

Worship. Proclamation.

Worship – this is our gift to God.

This is the Spirit leaping within us because God is near. This is my soul magnifying the Lord, rejoicing in God my Saviour. This is the music we sing to the Mighty One for His mercy. This is a holy multitude, filling up the horizon, shouting “Glory in the highest!”

This is the outburst of exceeding great joy that comes after seeing His light. We direct our pilgrimage, our finest gifts, our worship to him.

And it can only come after we behold His glory, after we see Him filling up the manger with grace and truth. Worship is the fitting response to what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

Proclamation – after we have seen, how can we not spread it abroad?

If this is truly wonder-full news, how can we hold it back? The coming of God means the Spirit speaks again through the Word, and through our words. It is the loosing of tongues to proclaim good news of great joy to all people.

It is the telling of the ancient story and its fulfillment. It is giving thanks and speaking of Him to all who are looking for redemption.

It is not a script, it’s a testimony. Proclamation is the fitting response to what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

This is how we celebrate.

We don’t arrange our stuff to make a magazine spread fit for a king. He must come first, come in His way, the only way.

He comes to the humble. He fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty handed. (Have you ever laid down at the end of it all and felt empty handed?)

His coming is the substance of it all, and out of that our celebrations take on fitting form. Celebration is response, not preparation.

And He can come where there is no feast, no fanfare, no money for presents. He must be able to come there, if at all. Could He come to you this year without ________________?

So I am left thinking of Him. Thinking that worship and proclamation don’t cost anything, at least not in our market economy. That without worship and proclamation we are all bankrupt, and all our celebrations tainted. All our giving tainted.

If even our charitable giving does not come out of our free response to Christ, it is not love. It is only making ourselves feel less guilty on Christmas morning. So you see, we can still give. But if the only giving you ever do is to pass on consumerism to the needy at Christmas, you have not learned from God’s gift. If your Christmas giving is not an extension of your way of life year round, you might as well just buy yourself another luxury, because you have not truly opened your heart. The poor don’t need a nice Christmas with all the trimmings like the rest of us. They need Christ. And they need Him year round. They need the people who get upset over “Merry Xmas” to know that Christ doesn’t live in a neon sign over a store display. You take the Christ out of Christmas all year when you ignore the hungry. So give, but not because it’s Christmas. Give because you are Christ’s.

And celebrate! Celebrate with worship and proclamation and soon the gift that God has placed in your humble heart will pump its life into all you do.

If you have the means, feast! And remember who Jesus invited to His feasts.
If you have the money, give! And let it be out of love not obligation.
If you don’t have the money, give! There are other currencies far more valuable.
You don’t need a thousand LEDs. If you have a single candle, that’s enough to welcome the Light of the world. If you don’t even have that, He will still be your Light.
Above all, rejoice and proclaim Christ.
Make all your celebration fitting to the One we celebrate.

We don’t need to spend money to welcome Christ. And if we can’t imagine how that can be true, maybe it’s time we tried it.


Monday, 14 November 2011

This moment

This moment is the thing,
Here, now
This breath, this embrace, this still
This familiar mess, this uncertainty
The pause in this fold of the day
Before time weaves us further along

This moment is the thing
And to be thankful
And just to be


Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Letters to Arden – November 7, 2011

Seasons change again, and you with them. You are running into life and all that it offers, exploring every corner, testing every boundary, wondering at everything new.

Even now I see your fiery spirit as you engage and enlarge your world. Are you growing into your name, or did your name find you when you were still hidden, sensing a fitting recipient?

So many forces are already at work to shape you into the Arden you will become. And I, your mother, fight for safety and virtue and grace to push ahead of all the rest, I fight to discern what we should embrace, I fight to be the shape of Christ against you, not my will but His.

I pray Love’s force will always win in the end, though Love can be fierce as well as gentle. Your fire will burn brightest when it is kindled from His.

And meanwhile, while you grow, so does my heart, so do my arms – and you can always run to them.

Love Mama


Monday, 7 November 2011

how to seek

And now, how to seek You with a whole heart?
How to live so that every breath invokes Your name?
How to be so that Christ is over all and through all and in all?

How to gain the reward of faith
Found in You, You found in me?
How to gain the Rewarder?


Friday, 4 November 2011


Fields lie fallow
Weary old men with frosted whiskers
Settling in for the long nap

Forests robbed of gold and rubies
Stand forlorn, wringing their limbs
And the spruces sigh, there, there

The river’s eye is swollen
Knocked about by a north wind
Muddied and oozing over its banks

But hush,
The battle for the season is almost won
And winter will come with her blankets and gauze
Come with her command to lie still and rest

All will be healed


Monday, 31 October 2011

Single-handed Theology - Nisi Dominus Frustra

Nisi Dominus Frustra

(An abbreviation of the Latin words of Psalm 121.)

Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labour in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Quite simply, without the Lord, frustration!!

How many bricks have I laid of my own accord, how many times have I propped open a watchful eye, busy into the night, laboring under the false impression that it is I who must build, guard and provide for my own house?

How many of us have taken up God’s name and affixed it to our title, stomping around in boots to big for us to fill, glorying in the justification of our own exhaustion? How many sleepless nights before it all unravels in vanity and frustration?

We chase the wind, and meanwhile the house crumbles.

So I pray,

Teach me Your builder’s craft, so every stone I lay is part of Your plan.
Teach me to align my work with Yours, so my energy is not wasted.
Teach me to trust, resting in Your provision.
Teach me to rest, trusting Your eye never sleeps,
and that Your love is at work all through the night.

You are the Builder, Watchman and Provider of this house.

Nisi Dominus Frustra.


Saturday, 15 October 2011

small seeds

These seeds are small and out of season
Leaves are falling, yet I scatter, scatter
Sowing hopes too slight to name
Tossing them out to the mercy of the elements
With a tiny whisper to the four winds
Breathe, oh breathe on these fallen
That they may live


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Just breathe

Take a deep breath.

When it’s the end of a long day and there are still so many things to do, when you are tired and feeling guilty about being tired, when you just don’t have the mental fortitude to finish what you’ve begun, just breathe.


And turn that breath into a prayer, exhaling all the depleted energy you cannot transform, offering the only thing you can at the moment, which is your weakness. Then inhale, invoking the sacred Name that can only be whispered by the poor in spirit, and feel your lungs expand with life that is not your own.

Breathe until you remember this life is your own, given for this moment and the ones to come. This is the Spirit-Breath of God, by which all things are once again possible.

Just breathe.


Sunday, 11 September 2011

This My Salvation

Driving home on a country road, the moon hangs, suspended glow over the trees and I remember how I have found saving grace in its light. And I begin to think about this my salvation.

My salvation has been a matter of preservation. How can the faith of a five year old be kept fresh all these years? How does it keep from going stale?

Only because God has sent his daily bread, manna from heaven, each morning and evening. It is only the mystery of grace, falling from the sky. Last year’s bread is long gone, and even yesterday’s will not be enough for today. He has renewed me constantly, opening his hand and providing food in season.

It has drifted down in the mercy of snow. It has been the moon, a silver wafer offered to unclean lips. It has been every word proceeding from his mouth, plucked from the fields of Scripture. It has been gathered on my blistered knees, searching desperately for just the crumbs from his table.

This is bread I have not baked. This preservation is not of my doing. I have only opened my hands, my mouth willingly, to receive what he gives.

Oh I have at times been seated at the table of fools, eating the cake of deception, frosting gone to dust and ashes on my tongue. I have tried to hoard and hide, stubbornly feasting on my own fermentation. I have nearly starved on self-reliance because I would not get up and gather his provision. I have turned his grace aside, only to find there is nothing else.

Nothing but manna, and what is it? and some days I cannot tell, I cannot taste, I cannot know how what has fallen can be what is good. I can only eat, and yet I can testify that brokenness has become wholeness, because all manna is from the mystery of the one loaf, broken for all.

He is bread and bread is life, and I must eat or die. And this is how I live. This is how I am saved, this is how he saves me even now.

And falling grace leaves rainbow trails in the rain clouds and rises bigger than the moon on a September night, reminders that this His salvation is all around.


Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Heavens Declare

The way the early autumn light is bounding and resounding around the world this morning is a marvelous thing.

Those particle-waves are racing through the atmosphere, gathering every shade of cerulean and azure in the spectrum, spreading them wide over my horizon.

Every photosynthesizing leaf is practically bursting with new energy, gathering our faded breath and exploding into songs of oxygen green.

Rich rusty red oozes out of the pores of the earth, a super-saturation of organic overflow, making decomposition a thing of beauty.

Even brown reveals its subtle personalities in the mown hay fields, the cud-chewing creatures across the road, the flash of feather in the air.

And, marvel of marvels, it my eye that is able to catch what this kinetic spectacle flings out, to render the nuclear language of the sun into these colourful phrases.

Me, praying with eyes to see, spherical windows washed clean by the light, till I can feel the glory of God pierce my soul at 300 million metres per second.


Saturday, 3 September 2011

late summer praise

Six sunflowers stand tall in a vase on the middle of the table, saluting the morning. They are stretching from night’s slumber, waking to the light, turning, turning. Bowed heads lift and faces open in bold yellow praise as they find their Creator.

We bought them at Hope River farm last night as the evening light cast long shadows on our way home from the beach. We bought honey too, and met the chickens, and saw how raw wool was brought into line with steady hands and a spinning wheel. But the sunflowers, acres of them, were top billing last night. Hundreds and hundreds in straight rows, all facing the same direction, a congregation of sun worshipers.

This is what sunflowers do, and I can’t help but wonder if they were created to do just this, to remind us to turn to the Sun, that our fitting posture is one which stands tall in bright worship, showing others the way. As the Countenance shines down, we lift ours up, and it is right to give our thanks and praise.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Heritage isn’t enough to keep faith alive
We assent to textbook beliefs
Without seeing proof of their existence
And are supposed to teach what we have never touched
No wonder we go looking elsewhere
For ideas to make sense of life as we actually live it

Do we box up the old time religion as a relic of the past?
Do we drag out dead puppets and make them dance?
Or do we acknowledge our decay
And pray for the miracle of resurrection?


Monday, 18 July 2011

Rich Mullins - Calling Out Your Name



Thunder rumbles me out of my bed
To stand at the windowpane, watching
Feeling the absence of the wind that signals the coming tempest,
The atmosphere’s vacuum, drawing me out of my skin and into the grey gathering clouds

Thunder rumbles and Arden looks to the window, wondering
Not afraid, just curious, looking to me to explain, to make safe
How do I wrap the words around thunder?
How do I tell her it is deep calling to deep,
All the ancient longings galloping over the plains to throw themselves off the cliff,
The shaking of everything that can be shaken,
The roll of the drums vibrating with a resonance that awakens the taut skins within
Till hearts skip beats to join in the dance of the Sky King?

Thunder rumbles and I wrap my arms around her
And we stand together at the window, waiting
I can never make it safe
Only make it welcome


Monday, 11 July 2011

"The Real Work"

by Wendell Berry

"It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings."


Letters to Arden - July 11, 2011

Dear Arden,

Will I remember these moments?

The way our noses touch after your bath, you all but hidden in a towel, soft skin, downy hair, bright eyes, our terry cloth cuddles.

The way your head falls on my shoulder, turning in toward the hollow of my neck on our way up the stairs, sharing our lullaby, your little smile and wave as you pull the blanket close.

The pure glee that escapes your lips as you step outside on Daddy’s shoulders, delighted by wind and trees and sea, arms outstretched to welcome it all.

A thousand little moments that take my breath away and replace it with something better – love.

~ mama

Friday, 8 July 2011

Hawk Tag

And then I see a little bird, sparrow or swallow I cannot tell, chasing a hawk through the great blue sky. My eyes are drawn up in amusement as the little one flits and darts, circling the powerful strokes of the bird of prey. Is it a game? Is it an argument? The little one dives straight for the hawk’s head and gets away with a playful peck, and the hawk gives her the eye – annoyance? bemusement? – and shifts his flight path. Still she follows, short wing bursts in contrast to the steady soaring, disappearing now behind the trees. I am laughing at nature’s joke, thankful to be lifted out of my valley into the mirth of the heavens.

I know I am but small, not used to thin air, but oh how I want to follow! Will you let me tag along? Will I ever grow wings big and strong? You turn your eye and laugh, tilt your head and turn into the breeze . . . but you take me into your current and the joke’s on me, for now I am rising on your wings.


Wednesday, 29 June 2011

a wing and a prayer

A surprise
Graced by the presence, magnificent,
of two bald eagles
Strength and beauty circling each other
in playful dignity over the river

Oh, for such a wingspan to take in the world, to embrace the globe's rippling breath, to see the straightest line between two points and yet take the scenic route

They call to each other, to me
Come up here
And I want to fly away

Deeper into this earthbound spirit-ache and then perhaps out the other side

Saturday, 25 June 2011

level ground

Isaiah 40:3-5

You fill the valley of the lowly, shaping firm steps upward, raising the downcast up to where they can see the sun again. You are a swollen river, rushing, flooding, filling us with faith till we walk on water, walk on up this liquid escalator of joy.

You demolish the mountain of the proud, shaking the steps of the haughty till self-sufficiency crumbles in the quake. You are a sweeping torrent, rushing, a rapid wave that sweeps us over the falls and down to the exalted plain of humility.

Where the horizons meet, we see each other face to face, and there meet Grace. We are all on level ground.


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Pilgrim Song (Psalm 121)

I look up into the crags as the storm approaches,
fearful of the slippery steps, aching feet weary already.
Will you help me over them?
Your ways are high, too high for us . . .

Yet as the wind blows fierce in my face,
I am reminded that you made the wind and the crags,
you made these feet.

If it all seems too much, I know you will build a strength in me I have never known.
The steeper the crag, the stronger my foot will be.

You, my Strength, are my Keeper
You will keep me on your path
Sheltering me from the driving rain
Creating moments of refuge beneath your wings

Your breath is at my back, and it is stronger than the gale.

And when I am weary and worn, I will sing
For your joy is my strength and your strength is my song

Your presence is a Pilgrim with me.


Friday, 10 June 2011


A grown man cries on the evening radio, reliving 9 year old horrors, and I want to turn it off, turn to a country station, anything. I am not used to this kind of emotion, springing from this kind of description. There is too much evil in the world, I think, scrubbing a pot fiercely in the kitchen sink. How we excel at breaking each other, building a junk pile of lives smashed to pieces so we can climb on top and play king of the hill.

I am grateful, so grateful, for my own safety, for the peace of my family, the security of our home. But the contrast is stark. How many mothers and children will die before they can ever wash the supper dishes without fear?

I stare across what seems a great divide. Do they resent me? Envy me? Pity me? I look into their eyes, willing my heart to leave a place open for them, even though all that rushes in may be a sense of helplessness. I will mourn with those who mourn, and leave the radio on.


Tuesday, 7 June 2011


God is motion

He is the heart that ever beats, the dance of three-in-one
The breath that creates, renews, recreates within his lungs
The mouth that forms the word that flings the light

He is the will that moves to send the Spirit to overshadow to put on flesh and blood

He is life laying down, over and over
Love lifted up on a cross
And in that eternal moment all things hold together

He is the hand that reaches out and draws us up through the wound in his side
Up through his veins and into the life of God
Into the circulation of Spirit, Son, Father

And in him we live and move and have our being


Monday, 6 June 2011

a word from the wild

There’s a wildness in God’s mercy
He is a fire, a storm, a flood
the roaring rapids that tear at your spirit
making your heart ache to be swept away
by thoughts higher, too high
by love deeper, too deep
by a current swifter than your stagnation
and stinking pools of complacency
He is the Spirit

Be of courage, quivering heart
Don’t fight the river,
clinging to slippery rocks of false security
In the centre of the whirlpool
you will find the peace you crave


Thursday, 2 June 2011

planting beauty

It’s not the way I usually would have done it

The apple tree sat waiting
In its plastic pot
Roots circling round and round
Without any room to breathe

I wanted ideal ground
But our “back 40” was less than so
Ground ridged by rocks and weeds
A pile of twisted rusty metal
neglected museum of days gone by
A heap of brush sprawled and sticky
like a shock of unkempt giant’s hair
A collection of broken glass, old medicine bottles
and the evidence of beer drunk in secret
A jumble of dirty plastic, torn and tattered
but never decomposing

I wanted to clear away all the ugliness first
Prepare a perfect environment for our darling sapling
A smooth lawn, a clear view, a clean start
But that was more than a few weeks’ worth of work away

I was almost loathe to do it
Behind the brush heap I pulled up weeds and grass
Collected more fragments of the last few decades
We dug a hole in the middle of it all
Sharp spade cutting into red clay
Filled it with rich, dark dirt harvested from the sea
And there
Surrounded by the brackish heaps
of our pioneer work in progress
We planted beauty

And there it blossoms even now
Unfurling roots and leaves, deep and high
Peeking over the giant’s mop top
Waving to the kitchen window
Happy only to be given a place

Yes, I will give up my stifling idealism
And give beauty a place to grow


Monday, 16 May 2011

Letters to Arden - May 6, 2010

Written eleven days before Arden's birth

Dear baby,

Today was the first warm rain of the season! I went out to run some errands in preparation for your arrival, just as the first gentle drops started to fall. There was a light, fresh breeze, mingling earth and sky in a delicious springy smell. You would have loved it! I can’t wait for you to experience the wonderful world and all its simple joys. The leaves should be out on the trees by the time you arrive. You’ll learn that green makes such a difference in the look of things.

We’re buying a new house just after you arrive too. It’s a big old house in Wheatley River. I’m excited for you because you’ll get to discover life beside a river. Rivers have their own music. So do oceans and streams . . . what fun we’ll have learning all their songs!

God has created such delightful things. If you look closely, you’ll be able to see glimpses of God’s face in the flowers, His nature in nature. He loves us so much! The best thing about living in the world is meeting its Creator. It’s only through Him that you will understand life and find fulfillment. He knows you already, more than I do or ever will. But I hope I will do a good job of introducing you to him, of helping you know Him as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus has made our humanity such a grace filled existence. I’m so thankful He has entrusted you to your Father and I. We love you already!


the hidden root

There was something growing in my heart
Almost hidden in a corner
It had been pruned and trimmed many times
But I secretly watered it
Its sharp and twisted roots took hold
Till I couldn’t imagine living without it

It imitated nobler plants
At times flowering with pleasing petals
But when I peeled back the bark
It was rotten at the core

And so when spring came
I took a walk with the Gardener
And he helped me understand
That it was not rooted in love
That it had never born fruit
That I must pull it out with my bare hands

And oh how it hurt
But I grabbed hold of that thorny stump
And pulled with all my might
I fought those stubborn roots with blood and tears
Till I felt his calloused hands close around mine
And with the strength of two thousand springs
We uprooted it

Now all that remains is a fragile plot of earth
Loose, broken, empty
Ready for something beautiful


Wednesday, 4 May 2011

momentary prayer

Today I don’t have time for a long conversation
Just moments when you are on my mind and in my breath
I open the windows and let your breezes blow in
Noting your beauty in the sun’s pattern on the floor
I scrub baby toes and musty cupboards
And this work is my worship
This peace in my heart is prayer
These are the moments of our communion


Monday, 25 April 2011

Letters to Arden - April 23, 2011

Dear Arden,

Today is Holy Saturday. You are too little to know what this weekend is all about, that today was the day the world fell silent as the grave. It is a busy weekend of worship and presentations and cleaning and reflection. But all that is on hold this afternoon as I take you in my arms. I don’t know what’s wrong, but you are inconsolable. Are you teething? Do you have a tummy ache? Are you getting sick? I try nursing, I try bouncing, I try distracting you with toys, I try a nap, I try cookies, I try funny faces, I try Tylenol, I try giving you to Daddy and leaving the room, but nothing works. You cry and contort in pain and discomfort.

Finally I scoop you up and take you to the kitchen, where the washing machine is spinning and the floors still haven’t been mopped. I turn on the little stereo and its glowing blue light grabs your attention. I put the iPod on the Passion week playlist and turn it up. The music begins – Come and Mourn with Me Awhile, How Deep the Father’s Love For Us, Sing to Jesus. I dance and sing and rock and your sobs turn to whimpers. You couldn’t possibly know what these words mean, yet as I sing the story of the cross over you, you soften in my arms. I sing them by heart and with all my heart, embracing these moments of broken worship, soothing you somehow with Christ’s sorrow. You settle into quiet rest, and still I sing, praying these words will find their way into your bones and blood, that they will grow with you till one Holy Saturday they will spill out of your own mouth like tears of praise.

love Mommy

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The graspable God

You were a real flesh-and-blood man
With carpenter’s hands and dusty feet
Who ate and slept and cried
The graspable God

I find myself longing to touch you,
The human-God you
Even just the hem of your garment

I get how people want to be near the places you were
God-touched places, where physical and spiritual fused together
To touch someone who touched someone who touched Peter who touched you

You embraced the ones you loved
Washed their feet
Let them wash your feet with their hair

Now we cannot cling to you
The closest we can come is a piece of bread, a sip of wine
To remind us that the living bread once lived on earth
By your invisible Spirit and by faith we hold on

But one day
One day I will have eyes to see you
Hands to touch you
And lips to kiss your feet


Monday, 18 April 2011

a Narnian moon

Sometimes when the moon shines through our open window
And the wind blows across the fields
Playing the dry stalks of last fall like so many wooden flutes
We hear Susan’s horn in the distance
And smell the salt spray against Cair Paravel
Then turning to you I catch Magnificence in your eyes
And the squeeze of your hand stirs a gentle valiance within
For a brief moment our hearts beat with the blood of a far off country
And our eyes turn with longing to the closet door


Sunday, 10 April 2011

Single-Handed Theology - Where Are the Children?

Single-Handed Theology: one hand in motherhood, one hand in theology, each inspiring the other.

Tonight, while nursing Arden before bed, all the while humming old hymns and drinking hot lemon tea, I was considering the relationship between Christ and the church. In a sacred mystery I am not sure I understand, the apostle Paul identifies Christ as the husband and the church as the wife. That got me thinking – where are the children?

We’ve got all sorts of relationships pictured in the Bible, relationships that exist among God and between God and humanity. There’s God the Father, and His Son, with the Spirit as the bond of love between them (to use Augustine's analogy). There’s Christ the bridegroom, winning a bride for Himself, the Church. The Spirit may also be seen as the chemistry, or divine electricity that draws and binds each to the other. (Of course the Spirit is also a person, not simply a force, with whom we have a relationship with as well, though He is always handing us off to Christ.)

Surely the greatest romance of all time would find fulfillment in the natural outcome of marriage, that is, offspring. We are God’s children, but the Church as she is now has borne no children.

But of course. The marriage has yet to happen. The Great Wedding is an eschatological event, and we are still the betrothed, not yet a wife, not yet a mother.

When I thought of this, a little tingle of excitement ran through me, and it wasn't the lemon tea. Sometimes when we think about the end of this world, or life after death, or eternity in heaven, we struggle to imagine what on earth we’ll be doing. (And yes, there will be a new earth too, as well as a new heaven.) Getting to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb seems like a pretty ultimate arrival in and of itself. But just think, we will be marrying Jesus, the One by whom and through whom all things were created! With such a creative husband, I wouldn’t be surprised if our union brings about some kind of new life. I’m not thinking of more human children, or a race of demi-gods, but something alive nonetheless, something that will recreate the church anew as baby recreates a woman from the inside out.

Perhaps we will experience a glorious motherhood, perhaps there will be things that need our nourishment and our love, love which has been made perfect through the fires of tribulation and resurrection. Perhaps we will be the co-creators we were meant to be. Perhaps the Spirit will birth new life in us as a surprise wedding gift. Who knows?

There is a reason a veil hangs over our faces as we look past the future into eternity. But you know what they say. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes . . .


Thursday, 7 April 2011

Empty Me

A song for Lent.


In fasting
I am stripped down to hunger,
to desire, raw need.
What are these cravings that gnaw at the pit of my stomach,
directing my heart and mind and hands,
eating into my dreams,
demanding to be fed?

In fasting
I must face hunger,
look into its greedy eyes,
and deny it,
deny myself.

In fasting
my soul growls at God,
honest in doubt, honest in need,
with no bread or wine in sight,
only an invitation to "Follow Me."


Thursday, 17 March 2011

Secrets of the woods

Do you wish to hear a secret?

Put on your boots and go into the woods

Go as a child would

Running and skipping with eyes full of wonder

There you will find a certain grove of trees

And a little patch of moss in the centre

Plant your feet into the earth and

Stretch your arms up to the patch of blue

Now close your eyes and breathe

If you stand very still, very patiently

Your eight year old ears will open

And you will hear once again the murmurs of the forest

The trees are speaking

Telling the story of the deepest mystery

The rising of sap in the spring

And the origin of the colour green


Saturday, 26 February 2011

eyes of faith

I met a man in the grocery store with the face of a wanderer
And a cart full of hot dogs
He stopped me to tell me he saw faith in my daughter’s eyes
The faith he needed to keep going
I almost brushed him off
Too busy to talk to an old drunk
Too busy to talk to Jesus



I close my eyes and create your contours
Relive our last slow dance beneath the stars
That night we said farewell

I saw your true colours
The reward for my insomnia
But you are a shape-shifter
And my feet too clumsy to follow

You are too easy to love
But too quick to leave me

You left a magnet in my chest
An image burned in my mind
I can still feel your movement
Though you dance a thousand miles from me

One day your music will draw me back
I will succumb to your cold breath
Your fingers of fire
If only for one night

Oh Aurora!
You are too easy to love
But too quick to leave me


*photo by Karl Johnston, Fort Smith, NWT

Friday, 25 February 2011

Ode to Winter Camp

This is a poem I wrote years ago in honour of our winter camp at PWK High School in Fort Smith, NWT. Every February, my thoughts inevitably turn back to the happy days spent in the bush. And so for a little fun, here is my Ode to Winter Camp.

It's winter at PWK
And every student knows
The boldest campers will set forth
To brave the ice and snow

In the light of February's dawn
Their silhouettes appear
Framed with furry parkas
And ski-doos piled high with gear

We are the winter campers
Winter campers ho!
We will brave the northern bush
At twenty-two below!

Doucette and Ransom, fearless leaders
Forge the trail ahead
We follow in their snowshoe prints
To Louie's trapper shed

We make our beds on boughs of spruce
We shiver through the night
We chop down trees at midnight's stroke
To keep the fire bright

We are the winter campers
Winter campers ho!
We survive the northern bush
At thirty-two below!

We set our nets beneath the ice
To catch our fill of fish
We trap and snare for furry beasts
To fill our supper dish

We skin the bloated caribou
On Piers Lake's floor of ice
We revel in the blood and guts
And my those steaks taste nice!

We are the winter campers
Winter campers ho!
We will thrive in northern bush
At forty-two below!

We cut a path through barren lands
Our topo maps to guide
We sweat and toil to find our way
With compass at our side

We do not fear the howling wolves
Nor trees lit from a spark
We do not shrink from frozen toes
Nor outhouse in the dark

We are the winter campers
Winter campers ho!
We have conquered northern bush
At fifty-two below!

We have danced with northern lights
Around the campfire's glow
We know the secrets of the bush
And how to pee in snow

We are a strong but stinky crew
Adventurers at heart
We love to tell our stories
And embellish every part

We are the winter campers
Winter campers ho!
We will camp in northern bush
When none else dare to go!


Wednesday, 23 February 2011


If I were strong enough, I could bear this pleasure. But I am a mere mortal, and my vanities incline me to drink too deeply. The sweet drop, fitting in its place, swells to drown me. I fumble the gift, stumble overboard and promptly sink to the bottom of the sea. The great fish saves me, and I am left three days to sober up and consider my shame. When I am spit out, I lay this pleasure in the hot sand, and turn my back till it dries out like a stranded starfish.


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

one morning

One morning I woke up to discover the Trinity had a pillow fight the night before. Giant feathery flakes were floating from the heavens, the overflow of some secret joy. I wonder who won. Did the Father strong arm Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Did Jesus fake an injury only to jump up and whack the other two in the face? Did the Spirit distract his opponents by blowing down into their eyes? Did they declare a truce after realizing they were equally matched? It is a quiet morning, so they must be resting now, but close your eyes and you can hear the echoes of midnight laughter.

Are you surprised by this undignified display? Perhaps a game of chess seems a more appropriate activity for such important persons, if such a thing were possible with three players. Or perhaps a stirring rendition of the Hallelujah chorus, accompanied by winged harps, of course. Maybe they are debating the merits of one creed’s wording over another. Or perhaps all their time is consumed by gravely counting out souls into one pile or another.

But this descending beauty erases all notions of a gloomy gathering of Greek terms. This beauty did not appear out of thin air. Everything wonderful about this morning was laughed into existence by the God of all joy, joy that is meant to be shared, joy that bursts out of the seams and explodes over creation. It is not a secret after all. This delight is over you and over me, and we are invited to the next pillow fight.


Letters to Arden – January 10, 2011


There is a beautiful moment when your eyes close and you fall asleep in my arms. These days you are usually too busy and aware to shut the rest of the world out, unless you are curled up in your own crib. But this morning you gave me the gift of your sleep, your weight, your warmth.

By this gift you tell me all is right in your world. You tell me you have received the love I strive to show you in so many ways. I feel your heart send its morse code signals to my own, little words beat out in a gentle rhythm – love, peace, safety.

Who teaches us how to love in this mother-daughter way? I did not have to read a book, or follow four parental laws. You did not need lessons from the nurses or other experts. Somehow in birth we are both given the language, a special revelation. We are taught by God Himself.

It’s no surprise, really, although it is a thing of holy wonder and grace. God, who is Love, is the One who gives us breath, makes and sustains our beating hearts. He cannot give of Himself without giving love. This reality is in our lungs and veins. It is all around us, sighing in the trees, falling with the snow, murmuring in the sea.

We are His children first. We have been made so by Christ, and we are both His sisters. When He leads us to the Father, He throws open the door and pours His very Spirit, Love Itself, into our hearts. By this Spirit we cry “Abba,” settling into His arms. This is how we know what love is. This is the Embrace that surrounds us as we sit here now the Embrace that strengthens my arms and lulls you to sleep. Sleep sweetly, little one. You are loved.


Wednesday, 9 February 2011

January Experiment: Follow-Up

Mornings are longer and lighter when I look out the windows instead of staring into a screen.

The urge for quick access to information strikes a surprising number of times throughout the day. My brain has been trained to digest many small meals instead of ruminating on a five course meal. Both approaches have their benefits and drawbacks.

It is usually worth the time and effort to create my own approach to something, instead of looking for a stranger’s quick fix or opinion.

The Joy of Cooking not only has thousands of recipes, it teaches the hows and whys of cookery. I discovered how to make delicious stock from scratch, reduce stock into a gel for long-term preservation, master a stew, and create my own mushroom sauce base.

The amount of time spent surfing the internet is inversely proportionate to the cleanliness of the house.

It is quicker to look up information on the internet compared to finding it in the Yellowpages and then making a phone call . . . but only if I don’t get distracted with other things online!

The mechanics of friendship have changed with social networking. I really do make meaningful connections with friends on Facebook, and I missed them!

Fifty-nine cents is worth the smile on the other end of the mailbox.

I have learned to create through computer keys, and I found it more difficult to write with pen and paper.

It is more satisfying to spend half an hour reading one book than browsing through half a dozen websites. I read 5 books in January.

Thoughts are better preserved in a journal than in a status update. Not all thoughts are suitable for public consumption.

The internet screams NEWER! FASTER! UPDATED! It has no secrets, no mystery. It conditions for discontent. Nature invites reflection, investigation, appreciation. It ties you to its seasons and rhythms and rewards patience.

Computer time is best approached with intention, purpose and discipline. Just because it is available doesn’t mean it is beneficial. Anything I allow into my home should be subject to the rules and rhythms of the life we are creating.

The computer is a useful servant, but a brutal master. I am responsible to teach it its place.
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