A Both/And Life

In the fall of 2020, my daughter Ale, son-in-law Clint, and I hiked the trail to Fern
Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park for a couple days of camping. The trees
were alive and green then. But a week later fire swept through that area, destroying
large swaths of the forest. This fall I hiked back up there by myself. And one thing
stood out to me: the flowers. Before the fire, the canopy of leaves above shadowed
the forest floor and there was not enough sunlight to sustain many flowers. But
now, in the midst of dead trees and ash, beautiful hillsides of flowers flourished.
This reminded me of one of my favorite Bible verses, Isaiah 61:3, written hundreds
of years before the birth of Christ. It promises that God will send One (Jesus) who
will give beauty for ashes.

And so, I chose a picture from that hike to represent what 2022 has been to me. As
I continue to process the losses of recent years—fighting cancer, losing my
husband, and the challenges of Covid among others–my life sometimes seems
“ashy”. There are times of loneliness and of wondering where I belong. I have days
of frustration as I try to handle practical life details (not my strong suit!) that my
husband would have taken care of easily. And yet, unforeseen beauty is emerging.
I spent three weeks in Ireland, England, and Paris this spring. There were moments
there when I felt like I was in a dream! I have had delightful opportunities to take
on new ministry challenges. In January I will graduate from the Anam Cara
spiritual direction apprenticeship that I have been in for the last two years. I have
experienced personal transformation and learned deep lessons in how to be
lovingly present to others as they process their lives. And I have had many
wonderful times with family and friends that I love. I am learning to live a
“both/and” life. Life is both very hard AND such a gift. It is both full of pain AND
abundant joy.

As we move into 2023, I pray each of us may find beauty growing, even in the
places of loss!

– Jo Newell

A Word About Weeks: The Valley of Gold



In November 2018, I had the gift of walking through the Valley of Elah. If you’re not familiar with that name, don’t worry—I wasn’t able to place it in the story of God until I planted my feet on it.

In 1 Samuel 17, Israel’s armies are encamped on one side of this valley. On the other, the vastly superior Philistine forces are aligned, ready to decimate the primitive tribe below them. Instead of costly bloodshed, they send out their champion to mock their opponents. And if you’ve guessed that champion is named Goliath, you know where that story goes.

That said, I’ve been thinking a lot about that valley since I took the picture of it at top. I’ve been thinking about it enough, that when a friend who was in Israel a few weeks ago sent me the picture at bottom, standing roughly where I’d been standing, my breath caught in my throat. Because the valley that had been only haunted by spring green when I saw it was ready for harvest. And I suddenly understood Pentecost on a deeper level than I ever had before.

For some of us, Pentecost brings up images of tongues of fire and a specific day in the Church calendar, if it brings up anything at all. (For me, it brings up a kitschy song, but that’s another story for another day.) However, Pentecost was a major Jewish festival, one of the moadim or sacred times. Also called the Festival of Weeks, or Shav’out (which begins on May 16, 2021), Pentecost is a harvest festival where the first fruits of the wheat harvest are to be brought to the Temple as a sacrifice to God.

The visual of the ripening harvest and the awareness of all that had been weathered by the people before they made their pilgrimage from their homes up to Jerusalem for this sacred festival makes me even more awake to the fact that God’s heart for us deep and wide.

Imagine for a moment the disciples gathered, waiting as Jesus commanded them, in Jerusalem. They don’t know what is to come. They’ve just been told that the Spirit will be poured forth. They don’t have any idea what that will look like, and, shaken by 40 days of Jesus’s frankly squirrelly resurrection appearances, they almost seem to be hiding.

And yet, there’s this festival that most of them know they need to be participating in. The firstfruits of the wheat harvest to be brought to the Temple comes most typically in the form of bread. The baking of which would have been happening all around them, filling Jerusalem with the pungent, yeasty smell of loaves and loaves of freshly made sacrifices.

Wouldn’t they been remembering all the times Jesus broke bread for them? Wouldn’t they have been thinking about the times that they walked through the fields of gold in their three years of following this wandering rabbi, plucking grain from the stalks, hungry not only for food but for more of what this iconoclastic man seemed to offer? Wouldn’t they be wondering about the harvest that Jesus had promised?

It’s on this festival that God chooses to pour out the Spirit. It’s in the midst of a city filled with the scent of baking that the Spirit enables these frightened women and men to become bread for others, the bread of Heaven.

They’ve walked through the valleys together, including the valley of the shadow of death—and giants much bigger than Goliath have been slain by Christ. Death is no longer. Sin has no grip. The valley that was a place of battle has become a valley of provision.

In this way, these disciples, these men and women waiting for what Jesus had promised, are themselves the firstfruits of His harvest. They are the grain that has been milled and crushed, leavened with the yeast of Christ’s resurrected presence. The waiting between Jesus’s ascension and this moment when the Spirit comes in tongues of fire has been a kind of proofing, a time when God has commanded them to rest quietly and let grace rise.

It strikes me that the tongues of fire were the kind of spiritual heat that was necessary for this full offering of themselves as food for the people. At Pentecost, they knew that the firstfruits, the wave offering that was to be given in order to sustain the people, were actually themselves. That the story that they were trusting in was coming forth in their very lives and faithfulness.

Pentecost is about the Spirit, yes. But it is also about all the valleys of darkness that God sows with good seed. In time, these valleys are filled with gold—sheaves of wheat that become the bread of our lives. And the bread of our lives that becomes sustenance for all people.

Thanks be to God.

A Picture of Ash Wednesday

Maybe it’s the way the sun is shining today. Maybe it’s the tired ache in me, the ache that longs for life and restoration. But when I saw this video, just after returning from an Ash Wednesday service that reminded me repentance is not about getting things right for God, but allowing God to come and rescue me, I saw Christ all over it.

Yes, there are loving men and women in these stories, and I don’t want to minimize them, either. Because when we become people who have been restored to who we truly are, when we are rescued and loved and held and know our worth to the One, we become people who rescue and restore and love. That’s what Lent is all about, and this is a beautiful picture of Ash Wednesday.


The Discipline of Waiting for the Storm

In the midst of a difficult time for our city, for friends, for family and for herself, Tara knew it was time to care for her soul. If you haven’t read our post this month on soul care, you can find it here. Once you read it, you will recognize how Tara combined several of the soul care practices she outlined as she found herself waiting for the storm to roll in. In the midst of your own personal storm, how can you practice soul care?
– The Anam Cara Spiritual Directors


I went up into the mountains to find some rest. It had been a hard week (who am I kidding, a hard few weeks) and I knew that I needed to stop, to breathe, to feel, and to listen for God.

A storm had broken over my heart the evening before. Fires in our city that consumed houses, friends struggling with life-consuming illnesses, dear souls I journey with aching over broken relationships or broken dreams—all combined to ravage me from the inside out. I’d felt the emotions building for days, like the tears were simply pooling around my temples, pushing against the dam of my daily living. When the tension of brokenness and desire finally ripped through the atmosphere of my life I was a snotty, sobbing mess, struggling to breathe, struggling to remember who I am and who God is in the midst of all this pain.

When the mountains called me this morning, I went reluctantly, spent from the night’s wailing. I don’t rage when I’m struggling with God, I weep, and that weeping drags everything out of me, until I’m naked, until I’ve got nothing left.

And there was rest in the hills. A cool breeze, a journal, a disconnection—not from the world or the pain or the problems—but from my own self-centeredness in the midst of them. Aspen and swallow, sun and small jumping spiders had whispered God’s glory once more. Even the sound of a distant chainsaw at work spoke of something that the Spirit was up to in me.

By mid-afternoon, I felt at rest. Not restored, not replete, but in a peaceful place both outwardly and inwardly.

From the Adirondack chair on the patio, I sucked in lungfuls of air, preparing myself for the journey back down. As I rocked, I watched clouds gathering on the horizon, stratus to cumulus to towering cumulonimbus. In big sky Colorado, you can watch storms approach for minutes or hours, depending on their form. As the thunder echoed against the peaks around me, I felt myself grow restless again.

I could just leave now, I thought.

Maybe it was the aspens, or the way the hearth inside the lodge smelled faintly of old fires, or maybe, just maybe, it was the Holy Spirit that repeated those words back to me so that I heard, really heard my desire to leave before things got uncomfortable, to head for cover before the rains came.

So, I took a deep breath. All the way down to my toes, as I say to my directees, and I stayed where I was.

I stayed as the wind turned cooler by degrees, noticing my need to control, the way I strain toward comfort, as if comfort were a great good.

I stayed as the sky turned slate, letting compassion wash over the tensions I felt in my jaw, my shoulders, my spine. Tensions that signalled my own difficulties with darkness that comes, bidden or unbidden, my overriding impulses to fight or flee.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

A stanza from Jane Kenyon’s poem rumbled in me as the thunder rumbled closer still. I didn’t like that poem. Hadn’t liked it, I thought, but here it was, grumbling from the stratus of my own subconscious, making itself heard. Something about it had caught me.

I continuing rocking, breathing, staying with the restlessness, the struggle, the desire to leave the difficult in favor of shelter and safety. A hummingbird, one that I’d heard but not seen in my ranging of the property, visited me like a vision, hovering in front of me as if I were a strange flower. Slowly, I began to see how the swallows were playing on the upswells of the approaching storm, moving from one side of the valley to another like wave-hungry surfers. As the chill sunk deeper into my skin, I realized that this group was a family—a mother or father and fledglings—and that the parent was using the approaching deluge as a kind of training for flight.

I smiled internally at God. Alright, I thought, alright. I understand.

The pain isn’t without beauty. Waiting for tumult to come rather than running or resisting is sometimes the best thing to do. I can live through the discomfort, can even find God, playing on the upswells, within it.

I want to tell you that I stayed on that patio until the rain came, until the clouds crested and covered me, forcing me inside. (Colorado rain is cold, after all.)

But I didn’t. I don’t know if it was the errands to be run this evening, or the movement away from the darkness a moment too soon. I felt peace getting up, peace in gathering my things. It didn’t feel like running, and I knew that raging at the storm would leave me as spent as my weeping had the night before. But I wasn’t certain what was my schedule and what was release. I wasn’t certain if I was leaving the poem of that patio before the last stanza was said.

I got into my car and drove back down the mountain, not to the valley but to the high plain. The whole time the dark mass of the storm tracked me to the west, its ominous presence less like mentor and more like menace. I felt myself wanting the storms wet fingers to grasp me at the pass, to close in and surround me at last. I wanted to tell you that I’d pressed fully into the discipline of waiting for the storm, that it caught me and changed me. I wanted the pretty ending to this post.

Instead, as I sit at my desk at home, the storm is gathering again here. The grey clouds are threatening, but no rain has come. Apparently, the discipline isn’t done with me yet. There is more to hear of God’s heart in this bright darkness (to butcher the image of the luminous book I’ve been reading). There is something of waiting as the horizon darkens that is teaching me something true—about Him, about the world, about myself.

I rummaged through my things to find the rest of the poem I thought I disliked. “Let Evening Come.” Kenyon’s stanzas are full of surrender and strength. After my afternoon on the cusp of storm clouds, I feel those three words thrumming in me like lightning, the touch of heavens to earth.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

A Fitbit for Prayer

I’m a sucker for measurable results. A few years ago, aware that my day-to-day routine involves a lot of sitting and listening, rather than a lot of walking or standing, I got a Fitbit. If you’re not familiar with this little device, it’s part of the family of souped up pedometers that measure how many steps you’re taking during a given 24-hour period. My fancy Fitbit also measures how many flights of stairs I climb, what my sleep pattern is like, and my heart rate. From all of that, I’m supposed to get at least a preliminary picture of my physical health.

Part of the reason I chose a Fitbit had to do with my competitive nature. According to various health organizations, a healthy adult should be traveling 10,000 steps per day in order to stay in said health. This little black band on my arm vibrates pleasantly when I’ve hit that goal (or any other step-goal I’ve set for myself.) It’s the simplest form of reward for performance.

I went a week without feeling that little buzz. I wondered if I’d gotten a defective monitor. I logged into the online dashboard where my data is stored only to find that during an average day of activity, I was only hitting about 25% of my prescribed goal. Discouraged, I put the Fitbit away for another week before I decided to try again with a slightly more modest goal.

If you haven’t noticed recently, we’re obsessed as a society with measuring ourselves against any measure we can come up with. When I logged into the wifi at Starbuck where I am writing this post, the login page read “Kiwi: Bird or Fruit?” Once I selected an answer (can you guess which?) the page instantly shifted to display the percentage of people who had chosen either. My vote was measured—I was with the majority or minority—on something as silly as my initial impression of a word.

We do the same with “likes” on Facebook, or how the outside of our houses compare to the other ones on the street. We quickly size ourselves up against other people in the office, or the way our neighbors are worshipping during service on Sunday morning. We almost instinctively rate ourselves as better or worse than everything and everyone around us, and our feelings about our value or worth fluctuate accordingly.

I was sitting with a pastor friend of mine when she jokingly referenced a parishioner’s wish that someone would invent a Fitbit for prayer. The context had been a workshop in which the participants were encouraged to spend 30 minutes in prayer each day. Everyone was reacting internally to how much work this would be when the speaker pointed out that the time didn’t have to be consecutive. Just 30 minutes in a 24-hour period. The woman referenced was looking for a way to measure the time she did spend in prayer during those 24 hours. She wanted to make sure she was doing it right.

And that’s what most of us want to know, don’t we? Am I doing it right?

I strapped a Fitbit on my arm because most of me knew that I wasn’t getting the kind of exercise that my body needs to stay healthy, especially given my heart history. It’s ironic that I was discouraged when it showed exactly what a part of me already knew. I wanted the Fitbit to tell me I was doing it “right,” when the Fitbit isn’t designed to do that. It’s only designed to tell me what is.

That’s why measuring our spiritual lives on some kind of scale is both discouraging and dangerous. We’re already living in an atmosphere clogged with do-it-right-to-be-loved. Instead of relying on a relationship with Jesus, and God’s own voice to tell us who we are and what our worth is, we’d rather find some sort of spiritual device to buzz pleasantly when we’ve done the appropriate amount of spiritual disciplines. If it threw in a few badges “Contemplative Cruiser!”, “Intercessory Intermediate”, “Wonder Worshipper” that would be great, too.

Prayer, like the rest of our spiritual lives, can’t be measured by how many minutes we read our Bibles or what kind of attention we’re paying during the sermon or how often we serve the underprivileged in our city. All of those things are good things, but checking those boxes don’t automatically result in relationship with God, or even spiritual warm fuzzies.

It’s why “How are you doing?” is the wrong question to ask when it comes to our spiritual lives. How are you doing? implies that there’s a bar labeled “mature Christian” against which we’re all being measured. And before we start waving the Jesus flag, let’s remember that Jesus isn’t a bar against which we’re measured, He’s a savior who makes measurement irrelevant.A Fitbit for Prayer

But wait… I hear you saying. How do I know if I’m following this Jesus if I don’t have some boxes to check, a spiritual heart rate to measure?

I get it, I really do. Right now my Fitbit is charging beside my computer. I’ve lowered my daily goal, which I’ve hit regularly over the past few weeks, and I love seeing the steps cumulate to a total well beyond what I used to be doing on a daily basis. But I’m not going to let my penchant for comparison tempt me into giving you a new measuring stick with which to beat (or congratulate, but I see this a lot less) yourself.

The only person who can tell you if you’re following Jesus is Jesus. And the more you seek to hear God, to be with God, to enjoy God, the more you’ll be freed from the need to figure out how you’re doing.

So, instead of a set of standards, how about I give you a few questions that might be helpful as you consider this Jesus, this God, who loves you so wildly you’ll never plumb the depths of that love? I’m tentative about this, you see, as I’m very aware of my own ability to turn absolutely everything into some kind of competition.

First, spend some time (or maybe all of the time) thinking about, marinating in, and enjoying what comes of asking, How can God be this good?

It’s a question given to me by Bill Hull by way of Dallas Willard, and one I deeply appreciate. It’s a question beyond which I’d rather not go, frankly. It centers me, returns me to what’s truest in my life with God—in my whole life—and reminds me that the God I love is better than I usually give God credit for.

The second question is a little harder, a little more prone to diverting us back into the “how am I doing” paradigm. Before I ask it, though, I’d like you to picture the people who you care most about. Really think about it. Imagine the faces of your loved ones, their struggles, their joys. Think about the last conversation you had with each of them, and the way their faces light up with they smile.

Have that picture clear in your head? Good.

The next question is How am I loving the people already around me? 

It’s really important to notice that the question isn’t “how am I doing loving the people around me?” That would lead us straight back to evaluation, and our Fitbit friend would be asking for a Fitbit for Love. Which strikes you as silly, doesn’t it? A Fitbit for Love reduces caring for others into a set of behaviors that might be considered “loving.”

Go back to the images you had in your head of those you love. Remember their smiles, the way they laugh when they are surprised?

How are you loving those people? Not yesterday, not last week, not over the past 15 years of your marriage. How are you loving those people right now?

It’s a question inviting relationship, just as the first question did. It’s a question inviting you to take the love you received from Jesus, that you continually receive from Jesus, and spill it into the lives of those right around you. It will have your own style, your own knowing of yourself and those around you, but it will look like love, and it won’t look like obligation.

There’s just no badge for that. Love is its own reward.

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How To Uncover the Gospel of Shame

This past weekend, some friends and I were gathered together over warm beverages and small people (it’s been unusually cold and rainy in Colorado recently, and our little community has been unusually fertile over the past year) when the topic turned to shame. We’d been talking about John 6:16-21, digging in deeper than the basic Sunday School answers to find some incredible treasures together. We’d noticed how Jesus didn’t scold the disciples for losing heart and setting out across the Sea of Galilee without Him, how He didn’t point out to them that in their moment of despair they turned away from instead of toward the One who wanted to bring them comfort.

Then my friend Nathan said what had been simmering beneath the surface for all of us. He pointed out that the first time he read the passage, he’d judged the disciples, and had assumed Jesus did, too. But nowhere does it say that the disciples were getting it wrong by heading to Capernaum (which Nathan pointed out means village of comfort/consolation, and can also mean village of repentance). Nowhere does it say that striking out in a direction—any direction, really—is to be despised, even (or especially?) when Jesus doesn’t seem near.

I have a mentor who says that how we judge characters in Scripture is how we judge ourselves, and I believe that to be deeply true. As my friends and I were reading John 6, we were judging the parts of ourselves that aren’t inclined to do the “holy” or “spiritual” work of waiting patiently (emphasis on the quotation marks) when Jesus is nowhere to be found and instead head out for the nearest city of comfort. It was a low-level, underlying message for most of us, something just beneath the surface that took some extreme measures to unearth.

That’s the thing about shame, though. It’s incredibly sneaky, and it works its way into our theology and our relationship with Jesus without us even noticing we’ve taken it on. Shame hides underneath “should” and cloaks itself in “righteousness” (more of those quotation marks) so we don’t see it for what it really is: a gospel-stealing usurper of grace.

“Don’t be afraid. I am here,” says Jesus to the terrified men in the boat, shuddering under gale-force winds. How we hear the tone of those words says so much about how we interpret the heart of Jesus toward us, storm or no storm. Read those words one way, and you’re free to receive the goodness of God for you, right now, as you are. Read them another, and you’re bound up in chains of performance and transaction, forced to “earn” God’s approval with your good behavior.

Want to uncover whether or not you’re living under the Gospel of Shame instead of the Gospel of Grace?

Try this simple, but radical, experiment.

Pick almost anything that Jesus says. To the disciples. To the Pharisees. To those He heals.

To the end of whatever Jesus says, add the words: “you idiot.”

To follow along with our discussion this weekend, let’s try Jesus’s words in John 6.

“Don’t be afraid. I am here, you idiots.”

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Well, I hope it does. But for many of us, adding the words “you idiot” simply makes explicit the tone that we’ve been hearing from Jesus for a very long time. Oh, we haven’t named it outright, but it’s been there. The shaming-inducing sense that we’re missing it, and that Jesus is fed up with us, just like He’s fed up with His bumbling disciples, the arrogant Pharisees, the clueless people whom He’s saving.

If adding the words “you idiot” after anything that Jesus says in Scripture doesn’t change the tone of Jesus’s voice for you at all, you’ve been living under the Gospel of Shame for too long, my friend. It’s time to throw it off.

Because Jesus never has derision in His voice for His beloveds. He doesn’t shame His people. He isn’t exasperated with you.

In fact, just like in John 6, He’s coming for you. Right where you are. You don’t have to be different. You don’t have to feel less afraid or more hopeful or be heading in a different direction. You don’t need to have “gotten it” (whatever it is) by now, and you definitely don’t have to have life with God figured out just because He’s come for you before. The disciples, after all, had just witnessed the feeding of the 5,000. Feeling lost and alone can happen even after the most amazing events; in fact, it often does.

Jesus comes, and He comes with life and brings all of Himself to bear. He comes without condemnation or shame. He comes and He says, ever so kindly, ever so grace-full-y, “Don’t be afraid. I am here.”

And that’s enough. It’s enough to receive Him right there in that moment, or any other moment. As soon as you do, you’ll arrive, just as the disciples do, at your destination. The city of comfort. Because that’s always the place that Jesus is, wherever and whenever you are together.

So the next time you’re feeling like you’ve blown it, feeling like you should have done something different, feeling like you need to get your act together, try exposing those voices for what they truly are. Shame can’t stand the light, it lives in the darkness. Push it to the forefront by adding “you idiot” to what you think God might be saying to you, and you’ll see how quickly the real Gospel comes to drive the false away.

An Atmospheric Low of the Soul

I’m over at The Mudroom today, sharing on their theme of Cyclones, Storms & Squalls.

Here’s a little taster. You can click the link below to read more.

It takes a few weeks before I can name this storm. I don’t want to test the winds, to look at the lows and highs, to name this as something more than a squall. I’d prefer to call it a cyclone, really, than depression, even if I get to soften it with the more than acceptable moniker of “postpartum.”

Keep reading this post here.

My Words Can’t Carry All The Praise

Glorious God,
how curious
and what a confession
that we should set aside one day a year
and call it Thanksgiving.

I smile at the presumption,
and hope you smile, too.

But the truth is,
Holy Friend,
that my words can’t carry all the praise
I want them to,
or that they should,
no matter how many trips they make.

So this day,
all is praise and thanks
for all my days.

I breathe and it is your breath that fills me.
I look and it is your light by which I see.
I move and it is your energy moving in me.
I listen and even the stones speak of you.
I touch and you are between finger and skin.
I think and the thoughts are but sparks from the fire of your truth.
I love and the throb is your presence.
I laugh and it is the rustle of your passing.
I weep and your Spirit broods over me.
I long and it is the tug of your kingdom.

I praise you, Glorious One,
for what has been, and is and will ever be:
for galaxy upon galaxy, mass and energy,
earth and air, sun and night,
sea and shore, mountain and valley,
root and branch, male and female,
creature upon creature in a thousand ingenious ways,
two-legged, hundred legged, smooth, furry, and feathery,
bull frogs and platypuses, peacocks and preachers,

and the giggle of it—

and turkeys (especially, this day, the roasted kind, not the flops)—
and families gathered, and the thanking;
the brave, lonely one, and the asking;
the growling, hungry ones, and the sharing.

I praise you, Glorious One,
for this color-splashed, memory haunted,
hope-filled, justice-seeking,
love-grown country
and the labors that birthed it,
the dreams that nurtured it,
the riches that sometimes misguide it,
the sacrifices that await it,
the destiny that summons it
to become a blessing to the whole human family!

O Glorious One,
for this curious day,
for the impulses that have designated it,
for the gifts that grace it,
for the gladness that accompanies it,
for my life,
for those through whom I came to be,
for friends through whom I hear and see
greater worlds than otherwise I would,
for all the doors of words and music and worship through which I pass to larger worlds,
and for the One who brought a kingdom to me,

I pause to praise and thank you
with this one more trip of words
which leaves too much uncarried,
but not unfelt,

Thank you!



from Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle by Ted Loder

Let The Church Brokenhearted Sing

Today I attended the funeral of a dear friend, a life cut short, but lived so well. Last night, I got a message from a friend who was in lockdown on the campus of Seattle Pacific University, the site of another school shooting. In the evening, students gathered to pray on the lawns as their classmates struggled for their lives in a local hospital. Today’s service was beauty and grief intertwined—as a colleague, friend and spiritual director said to me, “This sucks. And this is glorious.” Something that our friend herself would have said, I’m sure. As I wept and sang the songs of worship that she loved, I was filled with the reality of how music becomes our Pentecost reality—speaking across nations and cultures, tongues and tribes, theological interpretations and views on Scripture. It was a holy place, and out of it comes this prayer, for me, for us all, as we commemorate Pentecost this Sunday.


A Prayer for Pentecost Day
on the occasion of the funeral of my friend, Heather

Let the Church brokenhearted
sing. Not in triumph as we enter
the gates of the city, waving our
victory like so much oppression. Not
in despair, downtrodden, exiled and
wailing for the rivers that ran sparkling
through our camps. No. Let the Church,
brokenhearted sing
hope through our pain, though
death come, though
we grieve and mourn, wearing ashes
that betray the tracks of our tears, let
the bright tongues of fire alight over us
as we sing in the tongues of all
created things yearning toward home,
let us sing the songs of Pentecost believing
that holy language will visit us, that we will
become a bright flame of love, our grief
burning into something beautiful.

Oh, yes.

Let the Church, brokenhearted,


With Loud Cries and Tears by Jan Richardson

image source, used by permission

Book Update: We Have A Title & A Release Date!

Friends, you’ve been with me on an arduous journey.

This book has gestated for longer than a baby elephant, and you’ve been with me, for me, praying for me and beside me in each phase of this process. What began as a twinkle became a few classes became a book proposal became a book contract became a deadline and (after missing it badly a few times) became a rough draft and finally a mansucript. That manuscript is now being refined in the capable hands of InterVarsity Press, it’s publisher, and it is working it’s way into your hands from there.

I am so grateful to you, and so excited to start spreading the great grace-filled message of the redemption of our bodies, of how good they are, of how God speaks so intimately and beautifully in and through the very stuff of our selves.

I am so grateful for my guides and helps along the way, many of whom I’ll be talking about in more detail as the release date approaches.

So, enough baiting you. We have a release date! This book will be in your hands in December 2014. That’s right—this year! I’m looking forward to getting advance copies out, running a few promotions, getting to meet some of you in person, and talking to you about what it means to live well in our bodies.

Speaking of living well in our bodies, this seemingly incorporeal thing called a “book” finally has a name. It has real words put to real paper, and a real and finite title that encapsulates what I believe to be an important and redeeming message of wholeness:

Embracing the Body:

Finding God in Our Flesh & Bone

(*whispers proudly* I love it? Don’t you love it?)

It’s going to be a long 11 months until I have this baby in my hands, but I’m excited to share bits and pieces as I can, and have you be part of the process.

In that light, I’d like to invite you to pray with me over these words, this message. Will you pray that it gets into the right hands, that it goes to the people who need it most? I don’t care if that’s 50 people or 50,000 people (my publisher would prefer the latter, I’m sure, but I just want it to bring wholeness, shalom, to those who are longing for it), but I want these words that wove themselves from God’s heart through my body and into this story to heal, to bring hope, to create more spaces for Jesus to move and the Kingdom to come. So, would you pray that? Would you pray God’s Kingdom over this book even now? Would you pray over the pages to be printed and the ink to be spilled? Would you pray over the paper and the dyes and the stamps and the envelopes? Would you pray over the words inspired by the Word, that this book would be more than just another heavy yoke on an already burdened people but instead would be freedom and life and light? Would you pray that this book would be incarnational, sacramental, a real, tangible sign of God’s goodness in the world?

Pray however you’re lead, my friends, but please pray. Big or small, I’m excited to see what God’s going to do with this project of my heart.

So what do you think? What does the title elicit in  you? What does it make you hope for? What does it make you wonder about?