The Story

“All of these lines across my face tell you the story of who I am.” – Brandi Carlisle, “The Story”

I read something recently that said, “Thank goodness we do not look like what we’ve been through.”

I look in the mirror and have trouble relating to that statement. I look every bit of what I’ve been through.

I have never been the beautiful girl. I have not even been the pretty girl. I’ve been the marrying kind, as some say. Of course, I thought I’d be the “live alone in an apartment with too many cats” kind.

And that has always kind of bothered me. We women have this innate need to be lovely and adored, and, if we do not get that need filled, we likely become either lowly, desolate, and bitter; or over-bearing and attention-seeking (see Stasi and John Eldridge’s book Captivating for more on this topic). I became the former, often depressed and self-deprecating with regard to my appearance. Cerebrally, appearances should not define us, should not matter that much, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, we know. Every one of us knows. We tell ourselves all the time. But, the facts do not matter much in a world revolving around image.

I hear your thirties are supposed to be that magical time when we stop caring as much about what others think. But instead, I have found myself more critical, mainly due to my inability to maintain (you know, the oft-spoken “she let herself go”), in addition to the marks of life upon my body.

So, when I read the statement above, about looking like what I’ve been through, I had to step back for an assessment. On the bridge of my nose is a scar from years of wearing glasses, often having those glasses hit by flying sporting equipment in P.E. classes. My cheeks and chin are bumpy from the blemishes of youth, years I spent fielding taunts and sarcastic comments from the bullies and the cool kids.

Those marks, however unsightly by cultural standards, remind me that I made plans to end my life, but I survived.

My abdomen has a probably permanent bulge and dark vertical line from carrying three babies. I have scar tissue in my side from their kicks and residual pain in my tailbone, which broke when I delivered the first. I have literally been torn apart and put back together.

But it is the back together that matters. And those children are alive and healthy and beautiful.

I have gray hair and split ends and unpainted nails because those things are low on my list of priorities (no shame if that’s your thing, it just isn’t mine). I have bruises on my legs from carrying car seats and kicking children. I have freckles on my arms and sun spots on my feet from days spent outside ministering on mission trips or making memories with my family. The veins of my hands protrude, and my knuckles are growing knobby from nights writing out whatever is heavy on my heart. There are lines between my eyes, across my forehead, around my mouth – all the remnants of emotion and thought. There are a dozen other stories on my body too personal to tell.

My body is a testament to the depth of my soul, and I must learn to love it for its imperfections, not in spite of. If I love “in spite of,” I will always resent those flaws and diminish their stories.

Yes, my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and the Temple of God in Jerusalem was lovely and ornate. However, let us not forget that God’s presence also resided in a tent, and it was glorious. As Momma always said, it’s what’s inside that counts.

Ladies, sisters, love your story. Love the evidence of a full life that is written on your body. You are not your body; it is simply a precious, ever-changing portrait of your story.

After all, nobody ever says at a funeral, “Look at that beautiful corpse.” They will say, “Look at her beautiful life.”


My favorite color is yellow.

Not screaming circus or smoky mustard,

But butter-sugar-eggs yellow

in a bowl, with a mixer;

The promise of something sweet and rich.


Baking is a beautiful religion;

Not the flash-bang of cooking,

but a rhythm of slow steps and measurements,

sensory indulgences, childhood memories.


The restoring beat,

like a tea ceremony with delicate cups,

fly-fishing in a stream,

a waltz from a record player,

paint strokes across a canvas,

the pace created by words

and spaces





Rhythmic by design,

beating heart and sleep,

work and rest,

sun and moon.

Practitioners with meditative hands

reset meditative hearts,

winding and synchronizing

to keep time –

steady our souls


Boston Hymn, Revisited

The word of the Lord by night

To the watching Pilgrims came,

As they sat by the seaside,

And filled their hearts with flame.


God said, I am tired of kings,

I suffer them no more;

Up to my ear the morning brings

The outrage of the poor.

July 3rd, and the fireworks boom outside, and my son cannot sleep. “It’s a holiday.” I reassure him it will not last long and only for a few days. “Close your eyes and think your happy thoughts.” He shuffles off to the darkness of his room.

The fireworks boom because 240 years ago the cannons and muskets boomed shouting our need for freedom from the binds of a system that did not represent us. It was not enough to declare it; we had to make more noise.

I lie in bed skimming the news and its commentary, the echoes of bomb blasts and gun fire, of fingers and tongues wagging, shouts of anything reverberating off the endless corridors of our connected world. And I cannot sleep.

I am not the first to decry the noise of our present lives to be too much. I will not be the last to be accused of burying my head in the sand for walking away, but I must, for a moment, walk away. There is such a din of needing to be heard, and for every opinion there is another opinion, for every claimed injustice, a counter-claim. We are a people desperate to find a solution to the hurt of this broken world, and we are desperate to be heard.

My angel, – his name is Freedom, –

Choose him to be your king;

He shall cut pathways east and west

And fend you with his wing…


I will have never a noble

No lineage counted great;

Fishers and choppers and ploughmen

Shall constitute a state…


Lo, now! If these poor men

Can govern the land and sea,

And make just laws before the sun,

As planets faithful be.

A few days ago we hiked along a portion of the Trail of Tears that runs through Port Royal. I tried to stand there and imagine all the emotion of being forcibly removed, told where to go and what to do; herded up like cattle for whatever ill-informed or self-serving reasons offered by those in charge.

The next day we walked through a state-run housing development where the murder rate is among the fastest growing in the country. We handed out bags of food and talked to children and mothers, and I tried really hard not to see a parallel.

Even watching a movie with my family, I could not help but see a common theme: that we are all desperate for justice and liberty, that we want to be heard and understood, and that is why we shout.

I break your bonds and masterships,

And I unchain the slave:

Free be his heart and hand henceforth

As wind and wandering wave.


I cause from every creature

His proper good to flow:

As much as he is and doeth,

So much he shall bestow…


To-day unbind the captive,

So  only are ye unbound;

Lift up a people from the dust,

Trump of their rescue, sound! (From “Boston Hymn,” Emerson)

I will not add to the noise with my rhetoric on the practical solutions to our pain. There is but one answer, one hope, and that is trusting in Him Who holds the world. He commands us to love, and to watch and pray in these days. In case you need a refresher on love, see 1 Corinthians 13.

It applies to everyone.

True freedom is found in surrendering one’s life wholly to the only One with the power to change hearts. That is a liberty I will shout.





“Don’t give up on it yet,” the atheist landscaper said.


I am a born skeptic. A squinty-eyed, head-cocked doubter. Look at Amy, in her natural habitat, assuming the worst.

We decided to update the landscaping of our new home, an older house with plentiful, long-established greenery: shaped bushes which reached almost to the eaves, ivy rippling from ground to gutter, mums the size of hay bales, and every type of perennial flower imaginable.

We gutted it all.

For two weeks the front of the house sat like a shaved dog in the sun, and the ditch by the road heaped high with dying branches.

Thankfully the truck showed up with hollies and roses and who-knows-what little bushes. And mulch, of course. Lots and lots of mulch.

To bookend the space, we had two trees planted. They were small little guys, but fast growers, said the landscaper. “Water twice a day for the first week. They’re good after that.”

Two weeks later we left for a ten-day trip. Upon return, the trees were not good. The leaves were dry and brown. Mr. Landscaper came to inspect them. “Don’t give up on them yet.”

We managed to water one back to life, and life more abundant at that. It shed the dead leaves, greened and grew. Darling tree, that one.

The other drooped more, dropped more, dried more. We watered and watered and watered again. Then, I gave up.

I didn’t pull it up, out of busyness, I guess. My mother-in-law, Persephone of the greater Nashville area, who touches dirt and makes it bloom, inspected it. “Don’t give up on it yet. There’s some life in these bendy branches. Just prune off the dead stuff.”

I gave her my signature squint. “Sure, sure.” But I obeyed.

Today, while lopping off a few dead blooms from another bed, I checked on the pitiable tree. Hidden along the base branch were tiny green leaves; signs of life from the dry brown sticks.

Hope springs eternal.

There are two great metaphors for life. One is a river; the other a garden. I have written about a river, and today I write about a garden, or, a bed of shrubs, at least.

Forgive me for painting with broad strokes, but we are much like a bed of shrubs, or a garden, or a field.

Quite often there are things in our lives that have become overgrown, allowed to go on too long unchecked until the roots break into our very foundations and we must clear them away and start afresh.

It is a principle of nature that land stripped of its resources must rest. It requires a sabbath.

And after the clearing away, we too require a sabbath.

Of course, I will extend my metaphor. Thankfully, these total clearings away needn’t happen often in our lives. But, there are frequently enough little things which need our attention. If we earnestly examine our hearts we can see little piles of dry brown sticks.

Don’t give up on them yet. Just prune off the dead stuff.

“‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and head as well!’

Jesus answered, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.'” (John 13:9-10)

How many times have I looked within myself in disappointment at a familiar sin or shortcoming? I’ve turned my squinty eyes on myself and questioned my faith and my worth and my purpose because of those issues.

But I obey the truth of the Word. I submit to the pruning of God, and Jesus comes in the room and wraps a towel around his waist and brings the basin to my feet.

And hope springs eternal. Verdant life grows where we humble ourselves to His care. Once again creation reflects the divine Creator. I can sit on the front porch and witness His order unfold under the June sun.


An Understanding

You’re so difficult

and demanding

and inconvenient

You call me to rise,

while others rest.

You implore me to toil,

while others play,

to fast

while others feast,

to give, go without, go further.

And for what?


I dread the push and pull

of Your call,

the waves beating my skin,

knocking my feet from under me,

The work of the work.


But I know,

Beyond what I feel,


When I rise, You meet me.

When I labor, You come along side.

When I push through the pull,

When I beat back the waves,

Lift my feet and swim

You match my effort,

You make me stronger,

I reach You, and You give me rest


You are not safe, no,

but You are good,

and You make me better.

Son of Man, Part Three

Son of Man as Sovereign

If the Son of Man existed only as servant and sacrifice, Christianity is a false hope.

A good man died a martyr’s death. What a pity.

Beyond that, it means nothing. image

There has to be more.

Mark 2:10-11
“But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” (Parallel verses Matt. 9:6, Luke 5:24)

Why does the Son of Man have authority to forgive sins?

Matthew 26:6
Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” (Parallel verses Mark 14:62 and Luke 22:69, repeated in Acts 7:56)

Who does this man think he is? It is clear from these scriptures that Jesus acknowledged his identity to the public. In fact, it was these statements which drew the accusations from the Pharisees, leading to his crucifixion.

This past week, Passion Week, I read my son the stories of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Even at six years old, he has heard the stories so often that he was untouched at their power. I dwelt on the resurrection story for a long time, hoping for a revelation. Jesus didn’t simply experience death; he defeated it. And, he did it as God in the flesh, acting fully as man, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

To understand the mystery of God is difficult for a six year old. It is difficult for this 32 year old.

The last glimpse of the Son of Man is in John the Revelator’s vision:

Revelation 1:13

And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest.

Revelation 14:14
Then I saw a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was someone like the Son of Man. He had a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.

Here we see the ascended, glorified Jesus in fullness of authority. He is dressed in the symbols of sovereignty, but the same vision reveals that his authority comes from his worthiness. Yes, Jesus is the Son of, the Image of, God. He is fully divine. Yet he lived fully as man, operating under the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, I return to my initial inquiry: What does this mean for us, as sons of men?

Hebrews 2:6-9
But one has testified somewhere, saying, “WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM? OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM? “YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET ” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him (reference to Psalm 8:4-6).

We were given authority over the earth in the Garden of Eden. We squandered it like a birthright for a bowl of soup. Jesus, our second Adam, bought it back with his life. Everything is under his authority, but we are “in Christ,” and called to even greater works than he did.

In his name, we have power – to heal the sick and raise the dead.

In his name, we have authority – to cast out demons and tell the accuser where to go.

But being in Christ, who is sovereign, means more than commanding God’s Kingdom come and will be done. It means we can rest in faith of His ultimate sovereignty.

I know many days I do not feel like the enemy is under my feet. Many days I feel like he is in my ear, in my head, out my mouth. I do not feel like one in authority; often like one underfoot.

Jesus’ authority rested on his faith. He did not act out of his divinity. He did not rely on the feelings of the flesh or the soul. He lived in complete assurance of his identity as the Son of God, with all the benefits of that status.

So for me, and you, this realization means we do not need to chase our tails trying to attain a standard of holiness. It means we do not need to rely on the feelings of the flesh or the soul. We can, like Jesus, put our faith in the assurance that, because he is the Son of God and Son of Man, we can be called sons of God. We can reap the benefits. We can walk in faith that our sovereign Father has extended His hand over us and our lives so that we may kathidzo with Him in heavenly places.

It means we stir up our faith, tell our souls to rise up and stand. It means we remember who we are and whose we are, and we remind those invisible naysayers, too.

Son of Man, Part Two

In the first post of this series, I examined how Jesus labeled himself as “Son of Man” when defining himself as a servant. I believe the intent is to lead by example, teaching that if Jesus lived in his humanity a life of service, that we, too, should pursue the same. This post will reference scriptures that point to another theme of the Son of Man.

Part Two – Son of Man as Sacrifice image

The first scripture I referenced in the last post was Matthew 20:28: “even as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (NKJV). This scripture points out two characteristics of the Son of Man: his service and his sacrifice. He gave his life, and Jesus made it clear that he knew it and intended it from the beginning. Jesus’ death on the cross was not a surprise, nor was it, as some have historically suggested, an act of senseless condemnation by the Jewish ruling authorities. Here is no tragedy – pain and sorrow, yes, but no tragedy. This is the ultimate story of love and victory.

The passage above is not an isolated reference connecting the Son of Man to his sacrifice. In Matthew 18:11 Jesus declares his role of Son of Man is to save that which is lost. In John 6:53, Jesus cryptically told the disciples they must eat of his flesh and drink of his blood to have life. And in John 12:23 and 13:31 Jesus defined his arrest and the events leading to his execution as the time for “the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.” To the present observer who does not see the beginning from the end, these are strange ways to talk about oneself or circumstances. But from our fortunate vantage point, we see the necessity of Jesus’ death and consequent resurrection; we see the metaphor of communion; we know that his death and resurrection are acts of greatest glory unto God.

These understandings of the Word are beautiful and fundamental to Christianity itself. But, I am left with my original  inquiry. Why “Son of Man”? Why did Jesus emphasize his humanity in conjunction with the sacrifice he would make?

And, if the goal is to set an example for us, what sacrifice are we expected to make?

I do not know how many of you reading this have given birth to a child, but certainly many of you. I have done it three times, most recently just six weeks ago (so it is quite fresh in my memory). My body does not work with an epidural, so I went natural this time, with a “sunny-side up” baby, mind you.

Good times.

There comes a point in that pushing stage when you are just done. You have nothing left, the pain feels never-ending, and all you want to do is be done, no matter what that means.

When I hit that wall, I heard a scripture in my heart I had heard every Sunday in my childhood Catholic parish: “This is my body, broken for you.”

My baby’s heart rate was dropping with each contraction, and I could feel the nervous energy in the room. I remember thinking that the only way to end it was to get the baby out, even if I died in the process (logically, I knew that was not happening, but it certainly feels like it!).I stopped caring how I looked or sounded, or who came in the room. If I tore my body in half, that baby was coming out safely. I kept pushing through every contraction, beyond even the nurse’s instruction and despite the fear of my own harm.

I do not dare compare such a thing with Jesus’ sacrifice for me, only to the extent that I have no other frame of reference. It is the only way I can comprehend it. Jesus laid down his body, his life, even his reputation and integrity, to save us from certain death. He did not reckon his own life in the goal of saving ours.

Does that mean we are all called to a martyr’s death? Certainly not, though some are. It means we are called to lay down our bodies, our lives (comforts, resources, talents, skills, desires, etc.), and even our reputation and integrity, for the sake of the Kingdom. We are to reckon them as nothing compared to the glorious advancement of the Gospel.

We must bring ourselves to a point in laboring for God that we are willing to do whatever it takes to see others saved and set free, even if that means personal pain or discomfort.

The Son of Man set the example of sacrifice for us to replicate. As he taught, though, it is not about a law or religious activity, but a matter of the heart. Is your heart in at state of sacrifice? If not, God may bring you to such a place of discomfort that you become willing. I pray I am quick to respond in willingness.

Son of Man, Part One

The theological litmus test for those who deem themselves “Christian” is one question: Who is Jesus to you? The answer, of course, is that he is the Christ, messiah, the Son of God, God in the flesh, the savior of mankind. To say he is anything less, such as simply a prophet, a great teacher, or revolutionary, is to miss the mark.

Yet I have been curious about how Jesus described himself. I have heard many critics of Christianity remark that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God. But, is that really true? He did use another term for himself – Son of Man. So what does this label mean?  What was Jesus revealing about himself, and, moreover, what does it mean for us?

I believe when Jesus self-identified with man rather than God, he emphasized his humanity and the fact that he ministered as man, not deity. After all, he spent three years ministering and teaching before his death and resurrection. Those were not wasted years. He set the example for us to follow, proving that we would be able to do even greater works in Christ.

So, who is this Son of Man? image



Part One – Son of Man as Servant

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭20:25-28‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This rebuke comes after a situation I understand all too well: the intervention of a well-meaning momma on behalf of her children. I can see her now, Mrs. Zebedee, pushing past crowds of people, looking for the man Jesus, whom her sons follow. She’s heard rumors about him, and she wants to make sure her boys get in on the favor of God first.

Jesus saw an opportunity to teach his disciples about the upside-down nature of the Kingdom. Leaders of the Kingdom of God are not lords, they are slaves. They are not first in line, but last. Then, Jesus explained the role of the Son of Man: to serve and give his life (more on that in part two).

At another point in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus described the servant role of the Son of Man:

“When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭8:18-20‬ ‭NIV‬‬

How, you may ask, does this statement prove him a servant? Jesus had not always been a wandering hippie. Until he was 30 years old, he lived a normal and certainly comfortable life in Nazareth. He had a home and a trade. The knowledge of his identity compelled him, however, to leave everything normal and comfortable behind in order to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah: to heal the sick, raise the dead, set the captives free, and declare the year of The Lord. He gave his life as a servant to the lost and broken for three years before he gave it up in death on the cross.

The implications for us looms large. If the Son of Man lived a life of servanthood, so too are we called to it. Servanthood for Jesus epitomized sacrificial love. He ministered when the people had need, whether he felt like it physically or even spiritually. He fed crowds, healed the sick, cast out demons, and bent down to wash feet. He served with graciousness, too, treating with kindness those whom the Jewish leaders looked on with contempt. Jesus forsook home and comfort to serve the lost, and this is his example to us.

I am not urging you, dear Reader, to sell everything you have and wander the earth to minister. But  if God calls you to it, do not doubt He will provide for you in the same way He provided for Jesus. Nor am I implying you should serve out of fatigue. Jesus took rests and time away from the crowds. But I do believe we often pull away too soon and miss the blessing of serving when our physical bodies tire out. If we are always comfortable in our flesh while serving, we might be doing it wrong.

The Son of Man is our model of a life of service. We can follow by holding our possessions with open hands ready to be given away; by treating others with grace and love despite the comments and judgements of others; and by getting on our knees to do the work of love, caring for people in their physical and spiritual neediness, even after it becomes difficult or uncomfortable for us.


This is Love

imageI did not buy my husband a Valentine’s Day card this year.

Fourteen years ago, when I was a senior in high school, that man who would become my husband sent 22 roses to me at school on Valentine’s Day. One for each month we had been dating. It was the biggest arrangement in my school’s office that day.

All those romanticized (literally) notions of happily ever after, replete with date nights and fixed hair and clean clothes don’t pan out when there’s a needy newborn in your arms and her attention-deprived siblings underfoot.

Yesterday, when he walked in from being out of town for four days, he said I was glowing. My hair, badly in need of cut and color, was pulled back in messy mom-mode. I smelled like baby spit-up, and  I was wearing the baggiest pants I own. I cried.

I did not buy him a card this year.

I find sappy words on thick paper aren’t worth $5.99, just to be tucked away in some drawer to await eventual disposal. Plus, carting three children out into the cold to a store, looking for the right  card while hoping they don’t maim each other in the process is just too much for me when sleep is only a few broken hours.

We exchanged simple gifts while making coffee to help us get through the morning. He gave the big kids their little boxes of chocolates and sweet toys. We told them about the real St. Valentine, rushed to get ready for church, forgot things, coped with the meltdowns, kissed the boo boos, wiped the bottoms. We got our lunch from a drive-thru, happy just to avoid having to cook or bargain with the kids to eat. Now, he sleeps while they are bought off with a movie.

This is love.

“Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove: O no, it is an ever-fixed mark, that looks on tempests, and is never shaken” (Shakespeare, Sonnet 116).

Love is a 2am feeding; it is holding the arms and legs of a child in his anxiety-induced meltdown until he calms down enough to speak; it is feeding the dog and taking out the trash; it is breathing through the frustration and the fear and the pain and the fleeting moments of pure joy.

The glow my husband saw is the one he chooses to see. He makes a choice, every time, to choose to see the one he chose as lovely. Love is grabbing someone’s hand and dog-paddling through the complexity of life together. Love is choosing to see the glow:

in our spouses;

in our children;

in our family and friends;

in the people we do not know;

in those who would hate us.

Let this Valentine’s Day be less about romance and more about reality. Let us not lower, but examine, our expectations about what we want from our relationships.  Let this day be about embracing those we are privileged to have near us, choosing to see the glow that is there, even if it is buried deep.




The Expression

don’t you know what beautyimage

you contain?

what power?

what strength?

as you are, in your way,

the only way you can,

only you can.

what is fear?

what is insecurity?

what is doubt when you

are the craftsmanship of the Master?

do not withhold your light,

your color, your shine.

you are the expression of

something holy,

Someone Holy,



beyond comprehension,

yet you know Him;

don’t you know Him?

don’t you feel Him?

doesn’t that thud in your chest attest?

you are His expression

so express.