pa rum pum pum pum

I am that little child with that flimsy toy drum strapped around his angular little boy shoulder. Come, they told him. The sticks strike that moon face, commanding air and passers-by to listen to the rhythm, the foolish parade of one. I am that simple, repeat refrain. And even then, he does it better. He found the drum and the sticks and the bravery to begin.

Honest talk, I’m getting a little worked up facing this blank page. I am sad for being gone, sad for not playing my song (foolish as it sounds), sad for hiding my gift under a bushel basket full of distractions – mindless social media and early bedtimes with a tired brain.

My wet mess of a face almost matches the mess I meant to clean in our apartment when Pat left with Zella two hours ago. I don’t know why, but imagining myself into the story of the little drummer boy is just so exactly where I am right now. I guess the small gesture – lifting strap over shoulder and calling on a hidden, inner repertoire – convicts all my defenses.

Whew, I didn’t know I needed this kind of cry – let me take a moment. Let’s all take a moment.

I know – it’s not technically Christmas music. But sometimes the song beating rhythms behind our ribcage isn’t jingling bells. Most times, in my case. The Advent season is not triumphant. It is precious beauty, but it is sad too. We are the reason Jesus came all the way down, all the terrifying way down, from celestial glory to stomachs growling and torrential storms. I am both loved by this act and reminded that there was reason for His condescension. I am the reason.

My proneness to wander so pressed on the heart of God until it broke Him and compassion poured out in the real life of a little babe.

 

Anyway, I salute you – little boy and your silly pa rum pum pum pum refrain. Thanks for being brave enough to bang on your drum and make a grown woman cry while thinking about it. Here is me striking my drum in your honor.

this is my father’s world

We are in a class called the Brooklyn Fellows and it meets on Mondays. Last winter, when we were applying to be a part of it, the whole “Mondays” thing was a big deal. It meant we could only host Pancake Mondays once/month. Cutting back on the “thing” that is making me love New York felt like a weird step forward, but we thought meeting with a group of folks who also voluntarily applied to something with a required reading list and syllabus was a good enough idea.

This past weekend, we gathered with this group around a long table and before we started our discussion on a very thick Church History book (that neither Patrick nor I finished) we sang this song.

This group of strangers and friends, this city, this body, this mountain, this sea, this grief, this joy, this song, this day, this sorrow, this job, this sunshine, and this. 

This. All of this.

I know the sound of His sweet song of praise – the melody of rocks and trees and skies and seas. I can recognize the joyful tune that creation sings and I have often sung along. These are words believers sing – strong words that proclaim a funny paradox. None of this is mine. There is not a particle I can claim, of the beauty I see. Even my own body is not my own because it was bought with a price.

Still, I rush all my particles up against the gravity pushing me down to say, “Not my this. Please let this alone so I can hold it close!” That is when I feel the funny paradox the most. None of this is mine, not even the thoughts I hoard like jewels. But all of this He shares with me. That’s a lot of this. And it just expanded more than the weight of the world in the last two and a half months.


That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet. 

This is my Father’s world,
why should my heart be sad? 

The lord is King—let the heavens ring.
God reigns—let the earth be glad. 

This is my Father’s world.
I walk a desert lone. 

In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze
God makes His glory known. 

This is my Father’s world,
a wanderer I may roam 

Whate’er my lot, it matters not, 
My heart is still at home. 

This is my Father’s world:
the battle is not done: 

Jesus who died shall be satisfied, 
And earth and Heav’n be one.

When this includes deserts and wrongs and sadness and battles on battles, the last lines of “My Father’s World” become especially important. Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heav’n be one. The depth of this is infinitely deeper now because He includes us in His inheritance. Everything I can grasp and hold and hoard in this world pales to that union of earth and heaven becoming one.

But, what I am grappling with today is much more tangible, much more temporary and tactile. There is joy here, in all of this. God did not stop keeping promises when my world got full of grief. He did not stop being abundant life. God did not stop authoring laughter or dancing or sunshine or autumn breezes. He still authors all those things.

This world – all the beauty and all the ugly – is His and He will hear our groans until earth and Heav’n are one. Until then, I will sing, “God is the ruler yet.”


Find all our grief notes at this link and join with my family as we mourn in hope.

because fears repeat

I made a list in the “Notes” part of my phone on the way to work yesterday.

I blush reading the words now, because they sound like a high schooler’s diary entry, or at least a college freshman. And that is embarrassing when you are 29, I think. I was grateful the strangers crowding my shoulders were strangers – because it would be inappropriate for them to point and laugh about things I should keep hidden. I was getting off at Fulton, anyway, so if they wanted to be inappropriate I wouldn’t have to know.

I am good at keeping fears secret. I publish my fears in blogposts (see here and here and here and here), but this week I realized electronic confessions keep a safe distance. After I write out all my wrestling, the fears feel “dealt with.”

Turns out, casting out fears (by way of perfect love) is more like turning away stray cats than some other more permanent banishment, like throwing heavy rocks in deep oceans. The fears keep showing up at my door and I keep telling them to go away, because truth says God’s love can do that (1 John 4:18).

I believe God’s word is true, which is why I end so many of my blogposts with paragraphs that preach back to the way I feel in the first lines. But knowing and believing truth sometimes (often) does not change the way you feel. Not always at least, not for me.

The fears will show up again even after the best, believing “casting out.” And when they do – when I open my door to find that same stray meow – my shock gives way to recognition and I start my internal scheming to get rid of it… again.

That’s why it feels like high school and college and 5th grade and right now. Because fears repeat. And no matter how many times I act surprised by the scratch at my door, I know I will recognize the meow on the other side.

So, I listed my fears on my phone and then fought back tears in the crowd of strangers trying not to look at me. Truth casted out fears (again) and truth made Friday life abundant.

But I am learning that fears are not “dealt with” … fears are lived through.

Believing perfect love casts out fear means looking up with the Israelites at that bronze serpent in the desert (Numbers 21) because God keeps His promises. There will always be serpents and stray cats, but there will also be God.

We are one week away from celebrating the way God raised up His Son on the cross so we could look up for an eternal casting out of every fear. This is the kind of freedom that doesn’t just “deal with” all the fear we have going on.

This freedom means you can live right through fears without being ruled by them.

round me rings the music

I remember trying to conquer this hymn for a piano recital. I didn’t love it because my left hand always got stuck and the chords seemed to stutter. It has been several years since that recital in middle school and this morning was begging for this song to be sung.

The robin mothering babies in her nest and the sun dancing across the dining room – both declare their Maker’s praise. My Father owns all the birds in every nest and every streaming ray of light in every morning window. This is my Father’s world.

All of earth and heaven are His, wrought by His hand and held together by His word. He did not fashion a dull and dreary creation in shades of gray, but instead a vibrant and lively masterpiece with layers of sound and color that make His glory known.

This is my Father’s world. I know Him and He knows me – what a glorious thought!

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears 
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres. 
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought 
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; 
His hand the wonders wrought. 

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise, 
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise. 
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair; 
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass; 
He speaks to me everywhere. 

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget 
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. 
This is my Father’s world, why should my heart be sad? 
The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad. 

This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone. 
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known. 
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam 
Whate’er my lot, it matters not, 
My heart is still at home. 

This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done: 
Jesus who died shall be satisfied, 
And earth and Heav’n be one.

praise is what we do when…

This day is a doozy – a still-in-process and not-quite-done-yet, full on doozy.

This is exactly the kind of day that is in need of serious praise. On days like these I like to call in old standards. You know? The classic kind that just settles deep and reminds you that your heart cannot run ahead of the Spirit’s rhythm.

Actually, I think the reminder is more that I shouldn’t want to run anywhere but here – in the middle of the Spirit’s metronome, singing the doxology.

Because praise is what we do when we remember that God is faithful and true and a keeper of promises. Praise is what we do when we believe God is full of grace extending out and covering this moment as well as the next.

Praise is what we do when our lives try to run ahead of the Spirit’s rhythm because praise dances in step to His grace.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow on this, the second day of Spring!

let LOVE fly like crAzY

food & sex, doing work & undoing, the unaffiliated & the labeled, wondrous love & the lost

It’s been awhile since I posted “this & that.” Trust me, I’ve been just barely keeping up – a case of too many good things, I suppose. There are always so many things to read and see and do and be. Oh, goodness that sounds like a poem. Last night, I rapped a rhyme in the break room at the print shop… so many things.

Well, here are a few for you to read and think about. Please, friends, don’t read another word if you don’t intend to filter it through the Word. What good is any knowledge unless it is made to submit to God’s purposes? Even the wonderful, giddy things are useful tools in the hands of the Father – those things people tell me are silly and childish. I believe these things and the serious things and the sad things can all be used to tear back a few more layers of veneer we’ve haphazardly patched over the beauty of God’s redemptive story.

God Created Food and Sex for the Believer. Do I have your attention? I really appreciated what this article says about how both food and sex declare the glory of God and with great intentionality are meant to be enjoyed in the best and purest way.

What is the purpose of work? Are we all destined to toil with the aimlessness we read about in Ecclesiastes or is there something deeper at play? This article from the Gospel Coalition, “The Purpose of Work,” takes a look at the life of Luther and his understanding of work and vocation being primarily a “service to God.”

Sometimes it’s nice to read something that’s not news or theology or cultural critique, at least not overtly. I loved this article from Art House America, “The Order of Undoing,” because it’s beautiful. Just the meandering description of one woman’s overnight stay at a monastery in Kentucky, but somehow she made me feel like it was news and theology and culture as well.

There’s a new trend in spiritual identity that’s caused enough rumble to have itself considered a “category.” People now identify as “nones” – as in, they are unaffiliated, unattached, and unfettered to any sort of spiritual grounding. They mark “none” when there are multiple choice boxes about religion. This intrigues me and this article by Albert Mohler, “The Great Clarification: Fuzzy Fidelity and the Rise of the Nones” says beautiful things about how this means hope.

Do you know a prodigal? No, really… do you? Or maybe you are the prodigal in the parable about the son who wandered away with his inheritance to experience the world. What a beautiful story and what a beautifully mysterious ending! This song by Wilder Adkins (you can get his music for free at Noisetrade) invites me into that story in a new way and bids me marvel at the wondrous love of the Father.