Saturday, March 31, 2012


A walk in the woods this weekend evidenced the coming of Spring as life pushed through the pine needles and dead leaves. Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) was blooming profusely, and its white flowers shone like diamonds on the dull earth.

The temptation is the reach for the budding beauties to take one home; however, as Wikipedia instructs, "Picking a trillium seriously injures the plant by preventing the leaf-like bracts from producing food for the next year. A plant takes many years to recover."

It's difficult for us to have self-control, isn't it? I've noticed people stopping alongside Pellissippi Parkway, the main road leading to my home, to pick armfuls of the gorgeous daffodils that bloom there. Though there are signs posted forbidding this behavior, they can't seem to resist. And it drives me crazy. I want to honk my horn and shout "Stop!" The daffodils are there to herald Spring to all passersby.

Yet, despite my irritation of their behavior, I can act in the same way. When I pull out a camera to capture a scene on film rather than just being in the moment and letting my heart capture it. When I feel compelled to write about an experience rather than just remaining present and letting it wash over me.

We want to capture the beauty, freeze the moment, and cling to the glory that passes before our eyes. If we could understand our place in it...not as onlooker, but as participant...and cherish it as a gift, then the beauty would still bloom in our hearts long after the petals have fallen.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Removing Myself

This weekend our church is having a women's retreat - the first one we've had in quite a long while. While many things pull at my shirt tail to keep me home, I am prying their grip and heading to the mountains.

As I prepare for this time away, I consider this idea of retreat. Let me continue to introduce you to Conversations Journal with the article "Thin Times and Thin Places," written by Margaret Guenther. In this excerpt, she contemplates the idea of retreating and Jesus' own example. She writes,

For me a retreat is a prayerful going apart, removing myself for a brief time from the clutter and busyness of everyday life. I’ve learned about this from Jesus. Again and again, he simply walks away from activity - preaching, teaching, healing, sharing meals with friends, and sparring skillfully with those who would trip him up. He goes away to pray, sometimes with his friends and sometimes alone. We’re not sure exactly what this means: Scripture is very sparing of details about means and method. Sometimes the crowd follows him, and often it is waiting when he returns. Remember his return from the Mount of Transfiguration: he enters immediately into a scene of agitation and activity, where the disciples have tried in vain to heal the epileptic boy, the scribes are arguing, and the crowd is surging. Real life is never far away.

The lesson here is clear: the retreat comes in the midst of life with all its demands. “Real life” awaits us upon our return. If we wait until there is time, we will never follow Jesus’ example and go apart.
How true! How often do we deny ourselve these moments of retreat and renewal because we have so many other demands vying for our time and attention? If we wait for a good time to get away, we'll never get there. These words of Ms. Guenther were so good and timely as I prepare to leave behind soccer games, tennis lessons, and loads of laundry and enter into a time of personal and communal retreat.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Publication Plug

In yesterday's blog post, I referenced Conversations Journal. My friend, Tara, is the Senior Editor, and for some time I've been a fan of CJ's Facebook page and perused their website. Recently, however, I realized it wasn't enough and I became a subscriber of this fantastic publication. Published twice a year, Conversations Journal examines one theme thoroughly in each issue.

Currently I am making my way through the issue "The Problem of Pain." With articles written by Philip Yancey, Richard Foster, Larry Crabb, and many other excellent writers, it is not only thought-provoking, but it feels like engaging in a master class on spiritual transformation and the journey of the heart.

Please visit Conversations Journal at and be blessed by what you will find there.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spirit-Led Lent

When the season of Lent began, I felt the call - and desire - to write again. To do this, I've tried to blog every day (except Sundays) these past five weeks. I'll be's been quite a challenge. I hadn't written anything in nearly a year, so to go from there to writing (and publishing) daily was going from a dry spell to a downpour overnight.

It's been a challenge to write from desire rather than duty too. If I sit down at the keyboard and feel angst about what I'm doing, then I try to walk away. However, I have also had to resist the temptation to give up. Instead, I have to tune in to the Spirit's movement...when I am writing, what I am writing, why I am writing.

On Conversations Journal's blog, Chuck Conniry wrote a thoughtful post entitled "Lenten Angst." It was a timely reminder of what Lent is all about and why we adopt any kind of Lenten practice. Here's a excerpt:

Lent invokes a tug-of-war between our better and worse selves—a tug-of-war to which we would otherwise be oblivious. “The flesh” is that part of our sinful selves that salvation has dethroned but not destroyed. Whenever our flesh goes unchallenged, we are at rest—at home in our less-than-noble selves, blissfully unaware of the spiritual apathy that is silently suffocating our souls. And whenever we apply pressure to the flesh, the struggle commences anew.

In the season of Lent (and in Lenten-like moments throughout the rest of the year), we are drawn from the troughs of slumbering indifference toward new peaks of spiritual vibrancy. But this process is not painless, and the route from trough to peak is hardly intuitive. It produces what we could call “Lenten angst” – a phenomenon that occurs whenever we apply pressure to the flesh.

This is precisely the point at which Lent poses its greatest risk. Like the default setting on my Internet browser, my first inclination is to seek to overcome the flesh through my own (fleshly) effort. My friend’s question—actually my visceral reaction to his question—alerted me to my own Lenten angst, which is nothing other than the product of my unwitting (and ill-fated) attempts to will myself to a higher spiritual plane.

Paul recalibrates our spiritual settings when he says, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). In other words, trust the Holy Spirit to bear the appropriate fruit in your life (cf. vv. 22-25).

Rightly understood, Lent puts us in a space in which we make ourselves available to the ongoing transformative work of the Spirit. It reorients our interest to things spiritual—and challenges us to lean on the Spirit whenever we feel the creep of Lenten angst.
I have certainly found Mr. Conniry's words to be true as I've practiced the discipline of writing throughout Lent. When I try to make myself write, I am rendered mute. When I make myself available, the Spirit can move in me and through me, can speak to me and through me, and can sustain me and equip me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Gift of Grace

Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:4-10

Grace. It's a such a hard concept to understand and such a difficult gift for us to accept. Even though salvation is bestowed freely when we receive Christ, we live as though it is still somehow up to us. The familiar "works vs. faith" debate.

This has, of course, come up in my Bible study of Romans. In the first three chapters that we've been studying, Paul is writing to the Roman believers about the Law and its role in the lives of Jews, Gentile, believers, and unbelievers. Our discussions reveal how tempting it is for Christians today to still live under the deception that our works somehow earn or secure our salvation.

My pastor recently wrote an excellent blog post about this very topic: Please take a moment to read his thoughts. They may bring clarity to you or help you offer peace to someone else.

Monday, March 26, 2012


This year our church is reading through the Bible together. In the past three months, we've read through the first five books - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy - as well as Job. (We're following a chronological reading plan.) I have to confess...I've never read the Bible through, cover to cover.

Likely I've read it all in a hop-skip-jump fashion given the fact that I've been in Sunday school, church, and Bible studies since my diaper days. However, when I recently perservered through Leviticus I had to acknowledge I'd probably never read that entire book. Now I have. Whew!

I'm also engaged in an inductive Bible study in Romans with a group of ladies. We spent the first four Wednesdays of the study covering Romans 1. So, to compare the two approaches to Scripture, one is like a loop on the Daytona 500, the other like a pony ride at the county fair.

However, something extremely cool happened recently during our Wednesday morning group. I forgot what we were talking about. Or more specifically whether we were talking about Romans or the Old Testament Scripture I've been reading. No, it wasn't a ministroke. It was the realization that it's all connected, it's all the same story, it's all the same truth.

Here are a few verses from this week's study of Romans 3:
What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God. (verses 1-2)

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. (verses 19-20)

For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. (verses 29-31)
Imagine spending months reading about God giving the Israelites the Law while also reading Scripture like this from the New Testament?! It is incredible to see God at work throughout history and communicating through a book penned by more than 40 authors, written over a 1,600 year period from 1500 B.C. (Job) to 95 A.D. (Revelation), but inspired by the one and only Holy Spirit.

Even though I know that the Bible is inspired by God and is one story unfolding from Genesis to Revelation, I've always paid attention to the divisions in the book I hold in my hand: books, chapters, and the big one - that white page two-thirds through the book with the words in capital letters: New Testament. Those designations subtly separate the story I'm reading.

In this moment in Bible study, however, I was reminded how it is all one story, HIS story, in a fresh way that stole my breath. What a gift, after years of reading, studying, and learning His Word, to have it surprise me yet again! I echo the writer of Hebrews: "The word of God is alive and active."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Chef Seth

Our family stands on a precipice, and from all we've heard the journey ahead will be daunting...we will soon have a TEENAGER. Cue scary music.

Now, maybe I'm just optimistic, but I don't buy it. It seems that in every new phase we've entered with our boys, I've remarked at least one time to Tim, "I wish I could freeze time. This is my favorite age." In my deep heart, I feel I will utter these words again about my teenage sons.

As Seth sits just six weeks shy of his 13th birthday, I can say it continues to be a delight to watch him bloom. Yes, we already have inexplicable mood swings and sullen states that are difficult to endure, but let's be family puts up with the same from me from time to time (and my teen years are oh-so-far behind me).

Among his interests is a new desire to cook. He has certain favorite dishes that he wants to learn how to prepare. So, this past Saturday, he tackled his second recipe (enchiladas being the first): Cashew Nut Chicken. Can I just say, "Yum!"? Seth wasn't too pleased because our recipe was the Chinese version and not the spicier Thai version he'd hoped for. So, we're back to the cookbooks to modify it for his second try.

As a mom, I couldn't be more thrilled to watch Seth grow...even into a teenager. I thought there would be sadness as he grows up and needs me less; however, I am learning that he doesn't need me less, just differently, and that whether we sit snuggled in a rocking chair or stand shoulder-to-shoulder over a steaming skillet, we share a precious bond that may change but will never break.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fishy Friday

Luckily the fish were biting today! Tim, Seth, and Reed enjoyed a day on the water with our friend, Bruce, and they were some fortunate fishermen. From their account, they caught 20-30 fish. Could it be a fish tale? I'll just have to take them at their word!

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Since writing about Psalm 91 and considering Moses' journey, I've found myself stewing on this idea: [Moses] has seen God, talked with God, and experienced God like none other. He has witnessed the power and glory of God, and he wants God, not land. He knows the journey is about something much greater than an inheritance of land."

Writing that triggered an awareness in me. The awareness that so often my gaze is on the journey right before me: nurturing a good marriage, raising good kids, being a good Christian... Is The Good Life what this journey is all about?

Honestly, it sometimes feels this way. My default setting is to live like the path of "good wife, mom, Christian" is the path leading toward fulfillment. In the end, I should have a happy marriage, well-adjusted, productive children, and a satisfying ministry most likely in my church of choice.

And that makes me sad. Because that is not what I want in the end. Just like Moses didn't want an inheritance of land to be the culmination of his story, I don't want "good" to be the culmination of mine. Of course I want a marriage that endures, children that thrive, and a spiritual life that is vibrant; however, I want something else more.

I want God. I want to encounter and engage God in the same way as Moses. I want intimacy with Him. I want to communicate with Him. I want to be obedient, humble, yielded, and satisfied. I want to look beyond the "good" of this world and see the "great" of the one beyond.

Imagine Moses as he climbed Mount Nebo. He wasn't filled with grief or regret or bitterness. Oh no, likely he was bursting with joy and with anticipation - not because he was going to see the Promised Land, but because he knew was going to soon be in the presence of God forever.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dwelling Place

Preface: This year I am editing a blog for our church's website. It corresponds to the special journey we are taking as a church: reading through the Bible together being one aspect of it. From time to time, I also write for it. Here is the blog posted today...thought it could serve double duty by appearing on Tucker Tracks too.

If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Psalm 91:9-12
It’s so tempting to read Scripture in isolation. To take a passage and make life application with no thought to author, audience, context, or what the rest of the Bible says. For example, in reading Psalm 91, I can celebrate the fact that I can look forward to a life free from harm, disaster, and even stubbed toes!

Hmmm. Wait a minute…If that’s true, then why did my son whack his big toe on his dresser last night? Ouch. And why has my husband been struggling with illness these past eight weeks? And, come to think of it, why did last week’s storm damage our roof?

What’s one to make of the promises of Psalm 91 when we can look around Providence on any given Sunday and see faithful believers suffering and dealing with disasters of their own?

That’s part of the beauty and benefit of reading through the Bible, as we are with The Journey. We are thoroughly immersed in context and can, thus, interpret what we’re reading through the lens of the rest of Scripture. No verse or passage is examined in isolation like a lone star in the sky. Instead, we’re seeing the constellation surrounding it and the bigger picture it reveals.

So, let’s consider Psalm 91, because I confess it is a difficult one for me to understand given what I see around me and experience in my own life.

First, who wrote Psalm 91? If you look for an author to be named, you won’t find one. Many biblical scholars suggest, however, that Moses is its author based on the fact that he wrote the preceding Psalm 90. Also, a bit of unique phrasing in Psalm 91 is similar to a phrase in Deuteronomy, also written by Moses.*

What difference does it make to consider the author when reading Psalm 91? Well, clearly it’s not crucial, or God would have inspired a byline; however, I find it helpful to consider that these are likely Moses’ words. Why?

Well, as we conclude our reading of the Pentateuch (the five books authored by Moses), I feel like we’ve gotten to know him fairly well. We’ve been fortunate to see his story unfold from babe in a basket to hothead in the field, from murderer to exile, from reluctant follower to faithful servant to humble leader. And we’ve certainly seen him deal with challenges, disappointments, and disasters.

Moses, who dwells (yashab: to abide, to remain) with God, speaks of a rescue and a rest that one experiences only in God and even in the midst of hardship. His eyes were fixed on God and set on a Promised Land beyond Canaan.

In fact, I often wonder why Moses doesn’t get upset when he is told he will not be entering the Promised Land. Here I confess my self-centeredness when I admit that if I were Moses, I might have argued with God’s decision and pleaded my case. My heart aches for Moses to enter into the land himself and complete the journey. Clearly, though, Moses doesn’t grieve this loss.

Why? He has seen God, talked with God, and experienced God like none other. He has witnessed the power and glory of God, and he wants God, not land. He knows the journey is about something much greater than an inheritance of land.

Perhaps if Moses did pen Psalm 91, the deliverance and salvation promised in its lines refer to something more, something greater. Perhaps it refers to our ultimate homecoming, when we will be given more than an inheritance of land, but a kingdom to rule? More than an encounter with God, but an eternity with him?

Spending the past three months with Moses as we’ve read through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, I have come to marvel at his courage, his patience, his humility, and his faith. I’m reminded by Psalm 91, whether he is its author or not, that I want to make my dwelling place in God so that in the midst of this life I can experience peace knowing he is my rest, my refuge, and my deliverance.

* Some biblical scholars suggest that David is the author of Psalm 91. In either case (Moses or David), both men dwelled (yashab) with God.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Fever

The first day of Spring deserves some recognition. We paused from our hard work to enjoy a free Italian ice on Market Square...yum! What a beautiful day to soak in the sun, sit on the grass, and rest from our labor!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Break, Tucker Style

No sunning on the beach, hitting the slopes, or mingling with Mickey on this year's Spring break. Oh no, I've hired the best crew to help with some projects around the house - dusting the miniblinds, cleaning windows, and even scrubbing bathrooms! Foremost on our DIY list: repainting Reed's room. Here are a few photos of the boys experiencing their first-ever painting project:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

Shame Gremlin

Brene Brown recently presented a second TED talk, in which she continued to discuss her research in the areas of vulnerability and shame. Again, I found myself mouth agape as I watched her speak.

Yes, I love her stage presence...vulnerable and funny and smart. She explains, "It doesn't matter if we're on a stage, sitting at the table with our family, checking out at the grocery story, or at a party - the people who matter the most are the ones right in front of us." She connects with her audience as she speaks honestly and eloquently about areas that I have and continue to wrestle with (as does all humankind, I'd guess).

So, how about second cup of tea? Take 20 minutes and spend them listening to Brene Brown talking about shame.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Vulnerability Ted

When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable. Madeleine L'Engle
Last year my sister sent me a link to the following video, which captured me. I immediately sought out information about the speaker, Brene Brown, as her emphasis on living wholeheartedly generates a huge "YES!" from me. It's a word I've come to understand and appreciate in the past seven years.

In this video, Brene displays such authenticity and vulnerability - two traits that are the core of her research and teaching. She writes, "When I'm standing at the crossroads of fear and gratitude, I've learned that I must choose vulnerability and practice gratitude if want to know joy."

Please fix a cup of hot tea, settle in, and take 20 minutes to watch as Brene speaks about "The Power of Vulnerability."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


When we learned that Tim was ill with a dissected carotid artery, I confess that panic surged in me. Fear found its way into my passenger seat as I drove home to meet Tim after a tearful phone call to me at work. Fear nestled in comfortably...this wasn't its first time serving as my copilot.

In the quiet night that came, I lay sleepless beside Tim, who amazingly slept better in the nights following his diagnosis than he had in months, and tried to pray. However, I found myself uttering no words and surrounded by the silence.

It was there that the words came back to me: "We don't work without you." I had uttered those words, lying on this same bed, only 24 hours earlier. Now, in the quiet, I realized that they exposed a deep fear and dangerous agreement I was living under.

The boys and I needed Tim to make our life hold us sustain us, nurture us, and love us. Without him, we would fall apart. Without him, despair would overtake us.

And in the quiet, I heard the truth: That's a lie.

This wasn't the first time I'd wrestled with a similar agreement. Three years ago when I contemplated a trip to Haiti, I faced the belief that if something happened to me, Tim and the boys would be lost. The boys would have no chance to grow up knowing the deep love I hold for them, receiving the affirmation I offer, or experiencing the security that would come from my constant and dependable presence.

In that time God raised a question, "Don't you trust me?" And in my contemplation of that question, I was surprised to discover that no, I didn't believe that He was enough...or at least I wasn't living like it. I came to the realization that if something happened to me, yes, God would be enough for my boys. He offers a deeper love, truer affirmation, and eternal security that I can only hope to mirror to them. They would be more than okay. This discovery ushered in a deep peace I'd never known as a mother.

This memory came back to me in the quiet darkness of our bedroom as I listened to Tim's deep breathing. I love him deeply and yearn with my all for him to be well, to be here. But in that moment, I knew that my words the night before weren't true. We could work without him. And he would be the first to remind me that he is not our anchor.

When this lie was exposed, my companion of fear left the shadows of our bedroom and, more importantly, the shadows of my heart. I was free to walk through this journey holding, not gripping, Tim's hand, knowing that all will be well.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Carotid Challenge

The first week of 2012 Tim had the opportunity to ride the Dragon Challenge at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal. Little did he know, he was living a metaphor for the near future. Just two weeks later he found himself on a different kind of roller coaster.

A week after our return from a vacation to Orlando, Tim developed an ear infection. His treatment included steroids, antibiotics, and even blood pressure meds. Two weeks into this treatment, he mused at the dinner table one night that the left side of his face was experiencing numbness. I had noticed that his left eyelid was a bit droopy, so immediately my "worst-case-scenario" mind rushed to all types of diagnoses - none of them pleasant.

That night as we lay in bed and Tim joked about his facial numbness, I finally said to him, with what I am sure was a very severe expression, "Please take this seriously. We don't work without you!" The next day, with some additional encouragement from his coworkers, Tim did go to the doctor.

It was at this point that the cart he was riding crested the first hill of the coaster. Forty-five minutes after he texted that he was at the doctor, he texted that I needed to come pick him up...he had fainted twice. By the time I got to his doctor's office, he was as pale as the linoleum floor he was lying on.

Cue big, stomach-lurching drop as the coaster speeds out of control. Ambulance ride, emergency room, tests, scans, doctors, and a lack of diagnosis. He came home, returned to work, and continued to experience headaches and facial numbness. Just as one hill leads to another, one test led to another, and the MRI led to an MRA, which finally led us to a diagnosis.

Dissected carotid artery.

He called me at work to tell me, and we both raced home and poured over the Internet for the next hour trying to understand what this meant. The short answer: Tim is very lucky. This condition is apparently extremely rare in someone his age, and it is usually found after a stroke (or worse). Tim did not experience a stroke. All of his other medical issues led us down the path that led to a diagnosis before this happened.

The vascular surgeons we consulted believe that his artery will heal on its own in time. Tim is taking blood thinner as a cautionary measure, and in three months he will have another scan to check the progress of its healing. Until then, he will have to take it easy (which is proving to be not so easy).

We are learning a lot through this experience - both of us. (I will write a bit more about my journey in a subsequent post.) While I am one to usually avoid roller coasters at all costs, this is one ride that I'm glad to share with Tim. When it gets to one of us, the other is there to encourage, "Hang on. It will be over soon!"

Monday, March 12, 2012


All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Entering In

Five years ago we lost our third child 12 weeks into the pregnancy. I have to confess, I hadn't given any thought to the possibility of miscarriage. Though we struggled with fertility issues for a while, I was naive enough to believe that once I got pregnant I would stay pregnant. And I was blessed with healthy (although greatly nauseating) pregnancies with Seth and Reed.

They stayed put for their 40+ weeks and entered the world in a manner that suited their mom's personality: scheduled inductions and brief labor. In fact, both deliveries took almost the same amount of time: both induced at 6 a.m., one delivered at 1:50 p.m. and the other at 1:49 p.m. Pretty cool, huh?!

Our third child entered the world in a much different way. Instead of expectancy, there was fear. Instead of joy, there was grief. Instead of physical pain, there was the pain of heartbreak. Instead of labor, there was loss. However, as I remember the night of our miscarriage, I can recall the presence of God thick in the room, His Spirit moving through us, causing us to do what was humanly impossible.

In time I have learned to accept the seemingly incompatible emotions that fill my heart where this child's name is held in secret: grief and joy, mystery and knowing, absence and the promise of reunion. God's Word speaks assurance to me that my child is not unknown, is not lost, and is not forgotten.

So, as Spring arrives, I remember this life, this child, this hope. I enter into this season, mindful of what is not and what will be. And I offer thanks for new life that erupts from the earth so beautifully and so timely, reminding me of life, not death, of hope, not despair, of joy, not grief. Welcome, Spring. And thank you.

Friday, March 9, 2012


Birthdays, anniversaries, and milestones are marked in time - most honored with celebration and marked by joy; some remembered with grief and marked by tears. As March arrives each year with the blooming daffodils lining my route home, so does the memory of loss and the vacancy that resides in the place where a life should have flourished.

Andrew Peterson writes,
Michael Card’s book A Sacred Sorrow talks about the Hebrew word vav. It’s a word that means “and yet”, and is a crucial ingredient in almost every lament in scripture. Again and again, when you read the psalms, you hear the psalmist crying out against God, shaking his fist at the skies, demanding justice, wailing and abandoned, all but accusing God of being unworthy of our worship–basically, the psalmist is throwing a fit. Then, as if he’s exhausted himself, he says vav. “And yet, I will praise the Lord.” In spite of all evidence to the contrary, I believe in my bones that you are good. Your intentions for me are loving and kind. I believe in your presence though it feels like you have forsaken me. And yet. And yet. And yet. Those two desperate words may be the most faithful prayer we ever pray, and our most triumphant battle cry, though we whisper them through tears.
And yet...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dinner Guest

You know that familiar icebreaker? If you could create your perfect dinner party, who would you invite to be the guests? Your response might be something like Andrew Carnagie, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Jimmy Carter (Okay, maybe not...). Well, a few years ago I had the opportunity to share a meal with one on my "dream" guest list before I even knew who he was.

A last-minute invitation to a local concert led me to share a table, a chicken casserole, and a conversation with singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson. As my friend and I waited for him to conclude his pre-concert soundcheck, I perused the merchandise table and realized I wasn't prepared for the coming encounter at all. However, Peterson was immensly kind, utterly humble, and deeply down to earth.

Dinner led to my first Peterson concert, which wowed me and wooed me and left me feeling filled and hungry at the same time. One concert has now led to five, and I know I am not alone. I know that he has many devoted fans who cherish any opportunity to see him perform live. I count myself among them.

What is it about Peterson's music that captures me so? Well, he may not look like the two artists I've celebrated in the prior two posts (give him 40 or so more years), but he has the same wise soul, the spirit of a storyteller, and the ability to awaken through his art.

He seems to share the lens through which I try to see the world: everything is spiritual. And he explores and reasons and wrestles and celebrates in his music in ways that leave me thinking, rejoicing, and agreeing with a wholehearted and hopeful "Yes!"

Just as I can gaze upon a work by Wyeth or ponder a powerful sentence of Berry with a silence and stillness that not many artists invite me into, I can enter into such a place with the music of Andrew Peterson. It invites me to live this line from Wendell Berry: "For a time, I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Since I paid homage yesterday to one of the visual artists who deeply moves me, it seems fitting to continue in that vein by sharing a dearly loved writer. How to begin to explain the power of Wendell Berry's writing? Berry is a writer among writers...nonfiction, fiction, poetry. He writes it all. His fiction happens to be where my devotion lies.

Berry's own notice at the start of his novel Jayber Crow preludes his no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is style (shown above). Just from this short passage, I can imagine conversing with this grandfatherly gentleman. And the words that would fall from his lips would be as rich and deep as the soil we would be walking on (because of course we'd be ambling across a fallow pasture on the outskirts of Port William...hopefully to sit a spell with Burley Coulter).

In his fiction, Berry creates a world (the town of Port William) and its inhabitants. He weaves together a community and a geneology and a history that will leave you knowing them, loving them, cheering for them, grieving with them. His writing is deceptively simple and straightforward, and simple sentences render the reader speechless with their power and beauty.

Port William reminds me of the small Southern town where I grew up. One where agriculture and family and community once shaped life. Berry is deeply devoted to the land, to community, to stewardship, and he both captures this fading world and communicates the beauty of it in his work.

Somethings wells in me when I read Berry's work. The same feeling I get when I pass through my hometown and see strip malls sprung up where pastures formerly spread. When we drive into the country where family farmland is now a golf course. As family names that stretched back generations fade from memory.

Thank goodness...In the works of Wendell Berry the best of this world is preserved.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Art, music, and the written word have a power to evoke memories, stir the soul, and prick the heart like perhaps nothing else. Among my favorite artists is Andrew Wyeth. I remember as a young adult coming to an awareness of how his paintings and drawings affected me. And I continue to find myself mesmerized by both his technique and his vision.

One thing that compels me about his work is his perspective. So often his paintings show so much more than what is actually on the canvas. It's what is just out of sight that intrigues me. I'm drawn into the moment, into the scene, and ready to turn the corner, glance out the window, or step through the open doorway.

He said about his work, "It's a moment that I'm after, a fleeting moment, but not a frozen moment." I love this idea of a glimmering, passing moment captured on the canvas...a seemingly ordinary scene takes on a transcendent quality. It seems to communicate that nothing is ordinary and every moment, glance, and landscape is worth notice.

Andrew Wyeth (pictured above) died in 2009 at the age of 91. It's interesting to consider the work of his father, N.C. Wyeth, a famous illustrator, and his son, Jamie Wyeth, a realist painter, and to ponder the perspectives of three generations as revealed in their art.

It evokes the question, whether an artist or not, how do you see the world? If unsure, consider the art that captures you...perhaps you have a similar vision? I think my perspective echoes Wyeth's - a sense of expectancy, a recognition of beauty in what seems ordinary, and an appreciation of quiet moments.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


How much of your life is predetermined by lists, and how often do you go to God and ask "Lord, today what would you have me do?" Even if all of the stuff in our life is "good stuff," how often do we ask God if He wants us involved in something?
Today as I spent a blissful Saturday morning sipping chai and catching up on podcasts by Ransomed Heart, I ran into one titled "Distraction." And it felt like I literally ran into it - BAM! They nailed me with questions like the ones posed above.

In fact, just yesterday I was pondering this very issue when I found myself overcommitted and overwhelmed. Yes, I was doing all good things, but I was filled with dread, worry, and self-loathing because I had lacked the courage to say no. And I certainly did not consider how God would have me invest my time and attention.

I know I am not alone. I mean, how often do we say yes because it is seems like the "right thing" to do (i.e. "Yes, I'll be the room mom...I will sew those costumes...I will chaperone the youth trip). How often do we add and add and add to our To-Do list until it outnumbers the hours in the day? How often do we consider others (and their opinions of us) when we commit rather than considering God (and how and where He calls us to invest our time, gifts, and heart)?

Also, how indulgent does a little downtime feel? Time sipping a cup of coffee without catching up on e-mails...taking a walk without pushing yourself for calorie burn...listening to music without folding laundry...driving down the road without returning phone calls...reading a book simply for the pleasure of it. Do we ever consider what our heart needs and how saying "no" to other things opens up space for us to say "yes" to God?

John Eldredge and Craig McConnell, who were speaking on this podcast, discuss this compulsion we have toward busyness. They explain, "Busyness can make you feel important...however, it is the substitute for meaning. It does not equal fruitfulness, meaning, or significance."

What's the answer in a time when the Spirit of the Age seems to be busyness? John and Craig offer this insight: "The core issue is walking with God. Learn to pause and ask God, 'Lord, what do you want me to do?'" The devotional book I am following for Lent develops this idea:

Talk with Me about every aspect of your day...Remember that your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing with Me. A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with Me, even if many things remain undone at the end of the day. Do not let your to-do list (written or mental) become an idol directing your life. Instead, ask My Spirit to guide you moment by moment. He will keep you close to Me. (40 Days With Jesus by Sarah Young)
The core issue here isn't what we accomplish or fail to accomplish (whether that means chores, work, volunteering, or ministry). It's the issue of abiding. Abiding in Christ. Walking with God. Listening for His voice, and walking in obedience. From there, we can give from a cup that overflows...not from an empty vessel cracked and drained.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Storm Clouds

Fear comes in all shapes and sizes. For many, fear comes in the shape of dark clouds and with the sound of thunder. Thankfully I don't have a fear of storms (but believe me, I have plenty of others). Unfortunately for my friends with a fear of storms, today was a challenging day. We had the threat of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes all day and into the night.

I was substituting at the front desk of my son's elementary school, which is a busy place to be on a stormy day. The weather radio periodically sounded its ominous warning to update us about the storm's path. My computer screen flashed with the radar tracking the storm's movement. And my phone continually rang with concerned parents calling in hopes of an early dismissal.

At one point, when a tornado warning was issued for our area, the children filed out into the hallway to assume their tornado-drill position. They crouched silently against the concrete block walls and waited. Trust me, that's the quietest these 400 students had been all week. It was an eerie time, all waiting silently for the storm to either go around or pass over...but we had no idea which it would be.

This afternoon we were fortunate that the storms moved around us. The children returned to their classes, the noise resumed, and afternoon pick-up proceeded like every other day. However, for those who had been grappling with fears that run deep during the storm, their hearts echoed what one second grader told me after the drill. With a solemn face and a small voice, he peered over my desk and declared unhappily, "That was intense."

Yes, little friend, it was.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

On a Journey

This year my church, Providence, set out on something called The Journey. It emphasizes reading through the Bible in a year, praying deliberately, giving to Kingdom causes, connecting in community, and missioning either here or abroad one week this year. If this sounds familiar to you that's probably because it was inspired by the Radical Experiment at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham (and made known by David Platt's book by the same title).

One particular aspect of The Journey that I am enjoying is the Bible reading. I must confess that though I've been a Christian for 35 years, I have never read the Bible from cover to cover. Perhaps I've read it all in a hop-skip-jump fashion, but now that I've just completed Leviticus I tend to doubt it. It is solely the Holy Spirit's motivation and the accountability of my church family, who are reading along too, that will keep me from skipping chapters like Leviticus 14 and 15.

As I read through the first five books (Genesis, Job, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers...we are reading chronologically), I'm excited to see The Story unfold from beginning to end in my reading. From years of Sunday school, Bible study, and sermons, I feel like I know it fairly well. However, I am already experiencing the text and understanding the unfolding of the drama with fresh eyes and an expectant heart.

As I embark on this journey through the Word, I consider my prior experience with it. Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of The Jesus Storybook Bible, writes,

[There] are children in Sunday schools who know the Bible stories and probably all the right answers, and yet they have somehow missed the most important thing of all. They have missed what the Bible is all about. They are children like I once was. As a child, even though I was a Christian, I grew up thinking the Bible was filled with rules you had to keep (or God wouldn't love you) and with heroes setting examples you had to follow (or God wouldn't love you).
Her words resonate deeply with me. It was well into my adult years that I came to understand the Bible as something more. That I came to discover the Word of God was alive and active (Heb. 4:12) and desiring to shape more than my behavior but mold my heart.

Instructions and exhortations aren't enough to bring about the change. No, it's the Storyteller and The Story he is telling. Lloyd-Jones goes on to write:

When we drill a Bible story down into a moral lesson, we make it all about us. But the Bible isn't mainly about us, and what we are supposed to be doing - it's about God, and what he has done! When we tie up the story in a nice neat little package, and answer all the questions, we leave no room for mystery. Or discovery. We leave no room for the child. No room for God. And that's why I wrote The Jesus Storybook Bible. So children could know what I didn't:
  • That the Bible isn't mainly about me, and what I should be doing. It's about God and what he has done.
  • That the Bible is most of all a story - the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.
  • That - in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost him - God won't ever stop loving his children...with a wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.
Of course, we are instructed, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22). However, I believe our obedience is radiant and displays the glory of God only when it flows from a heart of love rather than a display of duty.