Tag Archive - Truth

Shine

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us;
it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

~Marianne Williamson

In Deep Nights…

In deep nights I dig for you like treasure.
For all I have seen
that clutters the surface of my world
is poor and paltry substitute
for the beauty of you
that has not happened yet….

My hands are bloody from digging.
I lift them, hold them open in the wind,
so they can branch like a tree.

Reaching, these hands would pull you out of the sky
as if you had shattered there,
dashed yourself to pieces in some wild impatience.

What is this I feel falling now,
falling on this parched earth,
softly,
like a spring rain?

~Rainer Maria Rilke

There has never been a time in my life when God was not a principle character in the story of me. I have spent much of my life attempting to apprehend Him. To know Him.

And He has eluded me.

I came to a place where I very nearly hated Him. I felt He had made a promise to me. To all of creation, for that matter. That we might know Him. Intimately. As close as breathing. Yet, I had nearly killed myself trying to be good enough. Trying to prove my worth to Him. Volunteering for everything. Practically living at the church.

Somehow, He remained untouchable. So very far away. And I had these cavernous empty places. Since He would not fill them, I began to grasp at other things. Trying to make it not hurt.

And sometimes they helped.

For a while.

But the empty did not go away. And now there was guilt and regret piled on top of the empty. And I was angry. Angry at God. Angry at all the people in my life who did not love me well enough. I needed someone to blame. Someone to be responsible for my pain.

Then God gave me a gift. Unexpected. Unwanted. He taught me to die. It was a bloody, excruciating experience. I had to let go of all the things that I thought made me me. Everything I was proud of. My gifts. The service I provided others. My striving and digging.

And stand before Him.

Empty.

Naked.

Alone.

It was terrifying. I felt as though I were melting. Like the wicked witch, you know. In The Wizard of Oz.

It was the worst thing that ever happened to me.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

It was the beginning of healing.

Once I stopped blaming others, and defending myself…once I was willing to be nothing…then…we could begin.

And grace became that soft rain, falling. And I had to do nothing, but receive.

I am done hating, and blaming. Mostly. I am learning to revel in being nothing. Because in this place…where I bring none of my striving, or digging, or proving myself, or being right…God is. And all I must do is fall into Him. Receive the rain of grace He pours freely over me.

He is still far away. Above me. Outside me.

AND

He is as close as breathing. A reality I taste when I approach the Cup. I breathe Him in the incense. I hear Him in baby girl’s laughter. I feel Him, soft, in the wind.

And the empty places are not so empty any more.

I am wordy. It is too much. Rilke said it best. And Job. We are, the three of us, of the same cloth. We have known the death…that yields life.

My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.  ~Job 42:5

God Who Told Stories

A friend of mine, a fine storyteller, remarked to me, “Jesus was not a theologian. He was God who told stories.”
~Madeleine L’Engle

All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables [stories]; and without a parable he did not speak to them.
~Matthew 13:34

Why stories? Why not rules? Precepts? Propositional truth? Why in the world would the Creator of the universe sit around spinning yarns?

Could it be that Christ had something for us that was too round, too subtle, too textured and layered to be summarized into 3 points? Or 5 steps? Or 7 secrets?

A story isn’t really any good unless it successfully resists paraphrase, unless it hangs on and expands in the mind.
~Flannery O’Connor

Hangs on?

Expands in the mind?

Brothers Karamazov  Peace Like a River  Til We Have Faces  Lilith  My Name is Asher Lev  The Alchemist …just to name a few. Stories that wrap themselves around me. That draw me in. Asher’s pain is my pain. When Ruben wonders why the healing his father gives to others is not given to him, I wonder too. What Santiago sees, I see. I breathe the same air. The same grains of sand sting my skin. When Lilith dies…I die.

And the stories roll around in my head for weeks…months…rankling, provoking, stretching me, giving me hope…

Truth we have lived is truth we own. Experience is a most effective schoolmaster. When we encounter great stories, those experiences become ours as well. We stand inside truth that is too complicated and messy, too transcendent and glorious, to be reduced to a principle. It must be wrestled with. Clawed at. Cursed. Clung to. Celebrated. And finally, taken deep within. Til it becomes part of our blood.

Why did God tell stories? What was it that He would give to us that could only be given in this form? What do you think?

Postcards from Atlanta…

Words, phrases, stories and songs keep playing in my mind and heart. Every time I try to describe it to a friend, I feel like English needs more words.

This weekend I was nourished, wrecked, provoked, refreshed, and inspired at Women of Faith: Imagine. I took my husband, who loved it too. I wish I had taken everyone I know.

A few reasons why I implore you to find a Women of Faith event near you, and do whatever it takes to get there:

Mary Graham Mary is the person who makes sure this operation runs like a well-oiled machine. And baby it does! Every detail is flawlessly executed: decoration, production, creative introductions, and the friendliest please take your seats/silence your cell phone messages I have ever encountered. Sessions begin and end ON TIME. Lunch is provided for your convenience. And Mary’s gentle, winsome presence holds all together.

Luci Swindoll When I grow up, I want to be Luci Swindoll. 🙂 Apparently I am not alone in this. These words from Hermann Hesse, which she shared with us, could be her own. This is the life she leads. Adventurous, creative, and fully present in the NOW. She challenged and inspired us to do the same.

Life passes like a flash of lighting
Whose blaze barely lasts long enough to see.
While the earth and the sky stand still forever
How swiftly changing time flies across man’s face.
O you who sit over your full cup and do not drink,
Tell me, for whom are you still waiting?

Sheila Walsh In her first session, she spoke to us of the relentless love of God in such evocative terms I felt I could almost taste it. This session crescendoed into the most moving rendition of Amazing Grace I have ever experienced. Because it grew out of the beautiful truths she had given us. She is a funny, transparent, and enthralling storyteller. I will never forget about the Shepherd who knows where to find us and Who invites us to come as we are.

Angie Smith Cute as a button and disarmingly self-deprecating, with a delivery so intimate I sometimes forgot there were several thousand other people in the room. This precious young woman has been called to walk on water through a devastating storm. And she knows the terror of waves slamming against you, threatening to destroy you. She also knows the ONLY way to keep from drowning.

“On those dark days when you can’t catch your breath, remember who you’re swimming towards. Kyrios: the Lord; the One to whom you belong.”

Nicole Johnson I’ve seen Nicole Johnson before. She has this way of making you laugh, and somewhere in the middle of the laughter you realize that important life-giving truths have wiggled their way into your heart. She did this again with one of my favorite of her sketches, The Invisible Woman. But, she also took the stage in a different role this time. This time she poured her heart out like water before us. Her own story of beauty from ashes. Glorious.

Lisa Harper Funny, honest, gutsy. I like this woman. She and I share a passion for mountain trails and for Thomas Merton. I loved this quote she used from him as she spoke to us about worth:

“God is asking me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God’s likeness. And to laugh, after all, at the preposterous ideas of ‘worthiness.”

Amen.

Steve Aterburn Yes. You are right. Steve is, in fact, not a woman. And, I’ll admit, I was skeptical. But he had so many good, good things to say. He talked to us about walls that separate us from the life God has for us. Walls like stubborn resistance, arrogant entitlement (ouch!), justifiable resentment and others. And he helped us see how choices like acceptance and gratitude can help us make a door through the wall.  P.S. Steve is actually the founder of Women of Faith. For that alone, I am deeply grateful.

Mary Mary Oh, Baby!! These grammy award winning artists know how to rock the gospel. Songs filled with truth will have you on your feet and the joy of the Lord will throb from the top of your head to the souls of your feet. *Incidentally, try to position yourself to see Lisa Harper and Sheila Walsh do their white girl interpretations of the choreography. Trust me on this. 😉

Laura Story Laura was a surprise guest. A hometown girl. I predict you will be seeing more of her. You probably know her song Indescribable even if you don’t know her name. But, her song that keeps singing itself in my head is Blessings. It beautifully articulates what I have come to understand about “mercies in disguise”. And after hearing Laura’s story, I know from whence the questions come.

Natalie Grant One of the sweetest moments of the weekend was when, at the end of her Friday evening set, Natalie Grant sang the old hymn, It Is Well. The whole hall was silent, except for her powerful voice. No instruments. Clean. Uncluttered. And when it was over, no one wanted to go anywhere. We just wanted to let the notes, the words, hang over and around us for a few moments longer.

Her musical benediction sums up the truths of the weekend about as well as anything. In this world we will have trouble, they all said to us. But there is a Shepherd, a Father, our Kyrios, Mender of that which is broken, Who has created all things for our enjoyment; and He will walk those hard places with us and lead us safely home.

Un-booklist

Firemen no longer put out fires, they start them. It is their job to eradicate any clandestine stash of books that may be found. The powers that be have decided it is dangerous to allow people to think for themselves. Therefore, they will be told what to think. And nothing poses a greater threat to manipulation and propaganda than books.

This, in brief, is the disturbing and eerily plausible world presented by Ray Bradbury in the book Fahrenheit 451. Brave souls who attempt to preserve books face imprisonment or even death. But there is a remnant…an outcast group of scholars and intellectuals living like hobos on the periphery of civilization (if you can call it civilization). They know that a culture that does not think is destined to implode eventually. And when that time comes, they will be needed.

Each of these men carries with him the books that will be needed to rebuild the world. But, he carries it inside him. Books like Plato’s Republic, Marcus Aurelius, Machiavelli’s The Prince, the writings of Albert Einstein and Albert Schweitzer, the Magna Charta, the four Gospels… have been committed to memory. Astounding, but not impossible. A recent film, The Book of Eli, explores a similar premise.

Today’s “booklist” post is a little out of the ordinary. I am posting no list. Rather, a question. If it were up to you to contribute one or two books to the rebuilding of a world that had lost all, which would it be? What truth, what idea or story is so pivotal to who we are as a human race that you would be willing to eat its words in order to pass them on?

I would like to make one stipulation in order to keep things interesting. I know that most of us would want to be sure the Scriptures would carry on. However, if you choose to memorize Scripture, will you be so kind as to specify a book? One of the Gospels, perhaps, or the book of Proverbs, et al…

I listened to Fahrenheit 451 on audio, mostly on a trail run I did a few weeks back. The finish wrecked me and left me sobbing on the trail. There has been a monstrous battle, and our outcasts are now walking back toward the smoking remains of the city to begin the long work of redemption. Our protagonist, Montag, formerly a book-burner, has told the group earlier that he can contribute most of the book of Ecclesiastes and parts of Revelation. As he begins to search within himself for words appropriate to this hour, he lands on these. May they inspire you…

To every thing there is a season…
A time to break down and a time to build up
A time to keep silence and a time to speak…

And on either side of the river was there a tree of life which bore twelve manner of fruits and yielded her fruit every month. And the leaves of the trees were for the healing of the nations….

Stained Glass Hearts

Supernatural grandeur expands our soul and helps us throughout the day to live not in glass-breaking tension but in tiptoe perspective. It’s the place where, in our “upward leap of the heart,” we see beyond the fray to the Father who does all things well.  ~Patsy Clairmont

Diminutive dynamo. Teller of tales. Wearer of audacious designer boots, including at least one pair in red. She who can captivate a whole stadium full of women and keep them breathless, on the edge of their seats. All are apt descriptions of Patsy Clairmont.

But it’s only part of the story.

Contemplative. Poet. She who has a deep ache for beauty, transcendence, truth. Weaver of words who can turn a phrase with a delicate, fragile loveliness that pierces the heart. This too is Patsy Clairmont.

I’m known for my playful approach to life, which is fused within me; but to those who are closest to me, I’m also known for my need to pull on galoshes and wade into a thought. I guess when you’ve lived 60-plus years you collect a lot of heartache from this wind-whipped world that causes you to search the shadows of the forest. In my childhood I would have skipped through the woods oblivious to anything more than the path ahead, but today I’ve learned to check the secret places for the treasures of darkness.

Patsy’s new book, Stained Glass Hearts, is a sweet washing of the soul, with stories true and deep. With generous transparency, she takes us inside some of the more excruciating places in her life. She gives a courageous, vulnerable account of fear so paralyzing that it kept her housebound. Difficult to imagine if you have ever seen her on stage. But that is the beauty of the story. She shows us how, if we let Him, God will take the broken shards of our lives and solder them into luminous works of art.

…even though the stained glass pieces are artistically designed, they still have been broken, sanded, and soldered. They didn’t naturally fit the redemptive pattern without holy repairs. Also, stained glass art doesn’t begin to show its beauty or its inspiration or release its story until light touches the dark. The light transforms an otherwise subtle picture into a brilliant, dimensional experience.

Along with her stories, her experiences, her great loves and her great woes, Patsy introduces us to some of those who have shed light on her path. At the end of each chapter is a gallery in which she shares poems, paintings, songs, prayers, artistry of all sorts that have nourished her spirit. I implore you to google each of these as you read. A sumptuous feast for the soul.

Many of us have come to love the ones who have left lovely lines that fit inside us, that help us to see our world more grandly and ourselves more kindly.

Don’t all of us wish we had more wise voices in our lives? Those who deal with us winsomely and honestly, helping us find our true selves. Patsy is such a voice. As she walks with us through gardens and galleries, thunderstorms and snow, she gently points out things along the way. “Did you see that?” “Listen!” And our parched souls drink the liquid grace of the moment. And we are refreshed. And inspired. And emboldened.

Rescue us from small speculations. Enlarge our hearts. You alone, Lord, can attend to our desperation. Silence us with your peace. Comfort us with your tenderness. Mend us with your love. Amen.

Amen.

 

Booklist: On Writing

Sometimes writing is like magic. Ideas, words, come from some place outside of me and flow through my hands onto a page. I look at them in astonishment. As though someone else had written them. But most of the time, writing is work. Hard work. And talent and instinct only carry one so far.

There is a craft to writing. And if I want to tell stories that impact others, I must learn this craft. I have had the great good fortune to know some gifted writers personally. Their advice has been invaluable to me. But, I have also benefited from the teaching of authors who have generously put their thoughts about writing on paper for all of us. Here are some of my favorites.

On Writing by Stephen King I have this book in hard copy and on audio. I am listening to it right now for the 3rd or 4th time. In the first part of the book, King tells his story. In the second, he builds a “tool chest” for writers. Both parts are indispensable. Whenever I get whiny about not being able to find time or space to write, I remember King, after a long day of teaching, sitting in the utility room with his typewriter on his lap.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott Irreverent and funny, Anne Lamott is a pleasure to read. From the “shitty first draft” to publication, she is with you all the way. And every now and then she drops a passage like this:

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve thought there was something noble and mysterious about writing, about the people who could do it well, who could create a world as if they were gods or sorcerers. All my life I’ve felt that there was something magical about people who could get into other people’s minds and skin, who could take people like me out of ourselves and then take us back to ourselves.

Me too.

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver Do not be deceived. Poets are not the only writers who will benefit from the wisdom of this Pulitzer winning author. She has much to say about nourishing our creative sensibilities and will inspire and provoke you with her words. So many quotable phrases, but this is one of the best:

For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry. Yes indeed.

The War of Art and Do The Work by Stephen Pressfield Each of these books provides an unapologetic kick in the pants and urges us to stop being willing victims of resistance, and get out there and create. The principles are applicable to artists of all types, as well as entrepreneurs, CEO’s, missionaries, anyone who has a call to do something in this world.

If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me…Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.

Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White “Omit needless words.” It is one of the principles of composition in this much revered standard of grammar and good taste. It is also the practice of its authors. Succinct and elegant. Indispensable.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron Subtitled “Creativity as a Spiritual Practice”, Cameron’s book guides us on a path of recovering our creative voice. Through “morning pages” and a number of other creative practices to help us know our true hearts, she helps unleash that which is buried within.

Steering the Craft and The Wave in the Mind by Ursula LeGuinn The first is a practical guide to various elements of writing like point of view or sound (“the slither and crunch of onomatopoeia” for instance :)). The second is a collection of essays and speeches on “the writer, the reader, and the imagination”.

To me a novel can be as beautiful as any symphony, as beautiful as the sea. As complete, true, real, large, complicated, confusing, deep, troubling, soul enlarging as the sea with its waves that break and tumble, its tides that rise and ebb.

Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor A marvelous look inside the mind of one of the most perceptive and eloquent writers ever to tell the peculiar stories of the south. It is philosophy as much as anything. Like her stories. Good, wise, true.

Our age not only does not have a very sharp eye for the almost imperceptible intrusions of grace, it no longer has much feeling for the nature of the violences which precede and follow them.

Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke Candid and intimate advice from one of my very favorite poets. On art, and beauty, and finding the poetry inside oneself.

A Company of Women…

At my daughter’s baby shower, our friend Angela prayed words over her very like these,

“Lord, please help Kelsey to know that she is part of a company of women. Women who are praying for her. Women who have done what she is doing. Who are here if she ever has questions or just wants to talk. Women who want to walk life with her.”

It was the best gift she could have received.

A company of women.

I know this gift in my own life.

Grandmothers…my own and a few I have borrowed…who love generously and dispense wisdom acquired with years of living, and loving, and forgiving.

My mother who challenges and inspires me, and is still the person I call when I am sick.

My precious Tuesday ladies. What a privilege it is to share the journey of faith with them! To dig deep, to spur one another on to love and good deeds.

A group of beautiful young women with whom I have the honor of baring souls. A safe place to say the hard things. To tell ALL our stories. And to love…tenaciously, persistently.

Three sisters-in-love with whom I have lived enough life that we are bound by ties much stronger than blood. The sisters I always asked for when I was a little girl.

My lovely daughter who has taught me so much about loving extravagantly.

A host of young ladies..students, friends…who provoke me with their audacious dreams and their ability to think outside the box. To throw the box away. To trample the box and do a little dance on it. 🙂

And now, a tiny baby girl who is reminding me to breathe slowly, to see things as if for the first time, to give long, slow hugs, and to sing…early and often.

It was always God’s plan for us. This living together as women. Telling our stories. Bearing burdens. Laughing, and crying, and celebrating together. A knowing that is strictly feminine. A way of calling out the hidden things. An easy discipleship over laundry and coffee and crying babies.

In August, my company of women will expand. Explode, in fact. The Philips Arena in Atlanta will throb with estrogen. On August 12 and 13 I will be attending the Women of Faith: Imagine conference. I can hardly wait to hear these ladies:

Luci Swindoll is fast becoming one of my heroes. A most intriguing woman. World traveler, former opera singer, art aficionado, lover of all things beautiful, and profoundly generous spirit, she lives life full on. I really like that.

Sheila Walsh is a woman who has known both triumph and despair. I have enjoyed getting glimpses of her heart on twitter and look forward to knowing her better.

Nicole Johnson is one of those rare people that will have you laughing hysterically, all the while planting life giving truth in the deep places. I desperately need both. The laughter and the truth.

Mary Mary, Natalie Grant and Laura Story will be delivering truth wrapped in sweet tunes.

I will be hearing Lisa Harper, Angie Smith, and Steve Arterburn (the lone male presenter) for the first time.

I encourage you to join me. If Atlanta is not convenient for you, you have lots of other options. Go HERE to find a Women of Faith event near you. Keep up with the latest news by following @womenoffaith on twitter, or by visiting their facebook page. And if you are in Atlanta, give me a holler. I would love to connect with you.

Booklist: The LOST Books

So, here is the plan. For the next few Wednesdays…til such time as I run completely out of ideas….Wednesday will be booklist day here on the old blog. Posts about books are always among my most popular, and are sources of great reads for me personally. If you are a bibliophile, or a wanna-be bibliophile, or even if you don’t know how to spell bibliophile :), check back each week. You never know what you might find. And I NEED your input!

This weeks premise: You just bought a ticket on Oceanic flight 815. (For those of you who did not watch the television show LOST, your flight is going down. Sorry.) Let us assume that you know you will end up on a deserted island. (THEY asked you to believe things much more far-fetched than this.) You have room to pack ten books. Turns out you are the only reader on the plane. So these are the books you will read and re-read over and over for the next few years. What will they be?

This is not a list of your “favorite” books, necessarily. Some books are great for a single read, but do not bear repetition. Which books can you give yourself to again and again? I chose to include no more than one book by any particular author, but this is not necessary. Here’s my packing list (as always, in no particular order):

On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius Truth be told, if this were the only book I had, I would have plenty to contemplate. The introduction by C.S. Lewis could occupy the first year. Then perhaps, I would be ready for Athanasius. So much that is essential to all you and I believe about God, and most particularly about His Son, are articulated here….compellingly, artistically, completely. Profound and rich.

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton There have only been two or three books I have ever read that I immediately read again. This was one of those. So much to digest here. Truth conveyed in a compelling voice. One that gets inside and rattles around and won’t be quieted. One that will expand your mind and create new receptors of truth. So that you might see more completely. More deeply.

Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God I can’t imagine a life without poetry. My original list had several poets. It broke my heart to remove some of them. I kind of wanted to cry. (And, hypothetically, if I were to include another it would be Thirst by Mary Oliver. :)) But Rilke is the voice that has most clearly spoken my heart’s cry. In words that I could not find, but so desperately needed. I have screamed his words. I have whispered them. I have prayed them. It is this collection in which I found him first. And it is this dog-eared, tear-stained volume that I return to again and again.

A Book of Hours: Thomas Merton compiled by Kathleen Deignan and John Giuliani I have read many volumes of Merton. He is kindred spirit. A fellow yearner after God. But one so far ahead of me on the path. I tentatively put my feet into his footprints…and hope that some day I will sprawl at the feet of God with such reckless abandon as did he. I select this particular volume because it is a potent distillation of his words. Any single paragraph gives me food for a day. I have copied prayers from here to my phone so that they are with me always.

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle I mourned her death as though we had known one another. Because in my heart there was a dream….that someday she and I would linger over tea and talk. About life. About art. About God. So approachable she seemed.  So honest. So real. It was folly, I know. But read the book and see if you don’t feel the same. Such lovely nourishment herein. Deep breaths of beauty. To fan the flame of creativity within me. To help me ardently pursue the sometimes elusive beauty around me. Madeleine L’Engle is a worthy guide.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky Thus far I have only read it twice. But I hope that, before the end of my life, I will have read it many times. Such deeply layered characters. No villain is beyond redemption. No hero is without weakness. And the stories that weave them all together, ahhhhh. So much to explore. Each time nuances emerge. So obvious one wonders how it was hidden before. As we bring to it our hurts, our longings, our loves, it gives to us something we were not ready for on the last reading.

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis Limiting myself to only one by Lewis was quite difficult. But in the end, I had only to consider how many times I had re-read each, and this was the obvious choice. Around half a dozen times thus far. And not nearly done. Some of the characters live SO close to my heart that I can not read without being drawn completely into the story. Pages blur and I am there. Answering the questions. Feeling the fear. The wonder. The…joy.

I will not lie to you. This book has caused me considerable pain. But pain of the best sort. The kind that wounds to heal. Destroys to bring life. Kills to resurrect. (If you should elect to give it a go, I encourage you to push past the first few chapters which might seem slow. Do not give up early. You can’t imagine what awaits you! Press on!!!!)

Beauty The Invisible Embrace by John O’Donohue It is my husband who has a confirmed Irish bloodline. Hello! MULLICAN!! But, when I read John O’Donohue, I feel I am reading a kindred soul. I have done three complete readings thus far, but have gone back and perused underlines and notes far more often than that. The way that he interlaces beauty, and nature, and spirit, and God together throbs deeply within me. His words are like a washing of sweet spring rain. Like the scent of lavender and roses. I read it as gift to myself. As a cleansing of the soul.

Candide by Voltaire Yes, he was ingenius. Yes, he was the poster-child of the Enlightenment. But, he was also one of the most brilliant satirists to ever live. I laugh myself silly all the way through the book. Sometimes I agree with what he is spouting, sometimes not. But always I am in awe of his artistry…his ability to tell an evocative and entertaining story in which is enmeshed all that he believes about the world. I would read it for fun. You don’t believe me? I double-dog dare you to try it.

Lilith by George MacDonald It would be fair to say that I read it the first time kicking and screaming. It had been recommended by my counselor. How’s that for vulnerability? Because I needed to learn how to die. And he knew Lilith could show me how. I knew lots of facts about my situation. But it was a story that would take me where I could not go by myself. I have read it since. And seen layers I did not see on my first visit. Like a complex and beautiful landscape through which I hurtled the first time in search of that death scene that would be life to me. I know there is more still to be found. I would bring Lilith. She has been been a true friend.

The Bible Not because it’s the Sunday School answer. Not because it’s the “right” answer. But because it’s the right answer. Comfort for those who mourn. Provocation for those who are self-satisfied. Correction for those who would do well, but are misguided. And I have been all. Stories without end. And poems. And prayers. The story of God. Of His Son. Of His people. Of the lost, the weary, the desperate, the courageous, the audacious, the confused, the rebellious, the restored, the healed, the ones who persist in hope. You. Me.

P.S. Yes, I realize most of my books have a faith connection. Coincidentally, so do I. Though I read books from many faith, or non-faith, perspectives, the ones I choose to live with, to roll around in, to let crawl all up inside me, tend to be those written by a questing heart, imperfect to be sure, but relentless in pursuing the things of God. No apologies.

Your turn. The LOST books. Go!!

Sacred Honor…

It’s only a few words, really. It can be read in five minutes time. Oh, but the power they carry! The inevitable tide on which they ride. The lives given freely in a war that has raged for a year already. For a cause. A cause of shifting shape….

In the beginning, we simply implore that we, the colonies, be given fair representation…consent of the governed…a right guaranteed by the Magna Charta. But when King George arrogantly refuses our entreaties, separation becomes the only viable option. However…

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

And so they write. Words that elevate and ennoble. Words that challenge and provoke. Words that convict…for we do not always live up to them. Words that speak of hope and of glory. Of right and responsibility.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

These words will not come cheap. Each signature on this document is a death warrant. Treason. Treachery. Betrayal. What did these men see that gave them the courage to do what they did? What was the dream that was worth more than their own lives? Could I do this?

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

It is a story that is still being written. By men and women who offer their lives for the cause of freedom, here and around the world. By individuals audacious enough to believe that one person can make a difference, and that each of us has indispensable gifts to bring to the world. Today we honor their forebears. Courageous men who showed us the way.

*To read the Declaration of Independence in its entirety, click here. Painting by Brent Godfrey.

Page 2 of5«12345»