Jacob’s Ladder at Sacre Coeur

Two evenings ago, sitting around the dinner table, the Downings had a epiphany: we only had one day left in Paris.

One Day.paris-metro-map

Our lollygagging over croissants and coffee, our wanderings in the time-stopping halls of the Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre, not to mention strolling through the back streets of Saint Germain des Pres, had conspired together to tee us up for seeing, well, none of the tourist attractions in this city. We were stricken.

So, we quickly drew up plans to see the entire city the following day, because that always works.

No, seriously, out came the city map and then the metro map and we figured it out. The following morning we would start early (ok, 10a but that’s early when you go to bed at midnight!) and head straight to the top of Paris – crepes in Montmartre and the gleaming white Basilique du Sacré-Cœur.

Friends, I was On A Mission: my Type-A personality was in full tilt, my determination pinned at 100%. We would see it all, take it all in.

It was in this state we arrived at Sacre-Coeur. It was a spectacular, cloudless morning and we stood for a while at the aged wall that surrounds the courtyard, tracing the Seine and searching the topography for familiar landmarks.

Finally, we wandered in and the girls stopped dead in their tracks, necks craned to take in the expanse. I realized a few minutes in that there was actually a mass being held, though to be honest, the droning voice of the priest hadn’t really broken through my consciousness. The faithful sitting in the pews were indistinguishable from the tourists getting off their feet for a few moments.


Sacre Coeur and the Sacred Heart of Jesus

But then, something brand new happened, something I’ve never heard in all my visits to landmark churches both modern and medieval all over Europe: an angel started singing.

It took me a moment to figure out what that unearthly sound was, as it rang out in the acoustical masterpiece that is the copse. I searched the platform and there she was, a small nun, about my age, blue habit, barely tall enough to reach the microphone at the podium. But her voice, crystal clear and unaccompanied, floated and danced, ascending and descending Jacob’s ladder as Heaven came down.

I stood there listening … entranced. I stared, not at her but at the immense mosaic celebrating the heart of Jesus, and tears sprang to my eyes.

Who would have thought a busy day in Paris, an on-the-go day, a day I had all planned out, full of tourist attractions, would begin with a surprise encounter with the living God?

The “old” me would have felt a twinge of guilt at having “forgotten God” in all the hubbub and busyness and stress of traveling and the allure of sightseeing.

The “new” me – OH I like her so much better, am so grateful for all God has done in me to birth her, this “new” me stood there with tears in my eyes and gratitude swelling in my soul that God would find me there, fill a thin space with His presence, sing life into my soul – a song that would carry me through the rest of the day and infuse everything with grace and beauty and truth.

I am so very, very grateful that I am not required to create opportunity in order for Him to accompany me on my journey, although I am welcome and invited to do so.

This Person who I love – He found me once, a long time ago and has been finding me over and over again ever since.








A few more links on personal narratives and trigger warnings

Here are two very well-written pieces that circle around the ever-growing popularity of “trigger warnings” and more broadly, the contributions and limitations of personal narratives, especially when considered up against the Scriptures in the life of a Jesus-follower.

Trigger Warnings and Trust, by Alan Jacobs

Why We Shouldn’t Trust Our Stories, by Alastair at Alastair’s Adversaria




“Men want significance and women want security.”

Ella, ever the gadfly in our house, is doing a book report on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.eowyn-wiki I can’t believe anyone reading my blog does not know the story, but just in case, it traces an epic quest of 9 male characters (4 hobbits, 2 men, 1 dwarf, 1 elf and 1 wizard) through Middle Earth to defeat an overpowering evil. Along the way, Tolkien incorporates a very small number of notable female characters: 2 elven queens and 1 human woman (and an embittered hobbit, but she’s beside the point).

In the movie version of LOTR, the female characters are bold, courageous and determined, but the one that captured Ella’s imagination was Eowyn, a noblewoman who disguises herself as a man so she can ride into battle against the great and growing evil, even at the risk of death.

Ella’s identification with Eowyn got me thinking about a phrase I heard routinely at church as a teenager, this little ditty that, “men want significance and women want security.” This statement was evoked as a way of instructing us girls that since we were created by God to want (and need) security primarily, we would find our deepest satisfaction in marriage and homemaking. Likewise, we were not — and ought not try to be — like men, who had a deep, God-given need and desire to participate in an epic story and struggle valiantly with their fellow brothers-in-arms — to give their lives for something significant. You can see the chalk outline then of the male/female model, where the men engage in epic battle in the public square and the women wait at home for the return of their conquering hero. This idea is illustrated quite clearly in the hugely popular (among Christians) Wild at Heart and Captivating books by John and Stasi Eldredge:

In an interview with Beliefnet, they explain,

“In fact, in “Wild at Heart,” I (John) said every man wants a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. And in “Captivating” (Stasi) -every woman wants to be romanced; every woman wants to play an irreplaceable role in a heroic adventure, not just to be useful but to be irreplaceable; and every woman longs to have a beauty that’s all her own to unveil, both an external beauty and an internal beauty as well. To be the beauty and to offer beauty.

The woman in this scenario, it should be noted, was part of the man’s spoils, his reward for having fought the good fight, so she had certain essential obligations to look the part. By extension, as I have heard many times in my short, happy life, when women refuse to be the prize, when women take up arms (metaphorically and physically), it demotivates men and deprives them of their masculine prerogative.

Some of my friends loved this narrative and Could Not Wait to fit themselves into it vis a vis marriage.

But me. Oooh no, this narrative made me crazy — C.R.A.Z.Y. Even as a young teenager, I knew deep in my soul I had very little desire for security (as it was conceptualized anyway) and even less desire to be someone’s prize. I was drawn to all the stories of epic questing and never, ever imagined myself in the role of fair maiden. My go-to childhood superpower? Flight. Way better than Spidey sense or a Lasso of Truth.  I wanted wings more than roots. If there was a mountain to be skied, I was at the top of it. If there was a boundary, I pushed it. If God was offering something, I was first in line even if I was uninvited by the powers that be. The edge has always been my comfort zone.

Even as a child I wanted to see the world, and I still do. When I get cranky and irritable my husband starts making travel plans, because he knows how essential it is for me to breathe fresh air and set my sights on something new, set myself against a task yet untested.  I am beyond fortunate that he’s that way too, and so when life throws us lemons we let the lemons mold and rot in the fridge, and we pack up the kids and hit the road.

I see the same hunger in both of my daughters, although scarcely can they identify it yet. What captivates them: challenge, risk, adventure, the open road. Julia will go on epic quests in the interior of her own imagination, and I guarantee you she is the hero in her own story, and rightly so. Of course, we all of us love to come home after our adventures, sleep in our own beds, get reacquainted with the cadences of daily life. It is not either-or for me, for my daughters.  It is both-and.

There are those who would argue (and have) that what feels to me like an innate desire to engage the big wide world and play a part there, to be significant, is a socially conditioned response fomented in the 60s by radical feminists and is (thus) not the way God made me. Who knows, maybe they are right. I guess someday I’ll find out if I became the person God imagined before the foundations of the world, or instead became some silly, deformed cultural cliche. I, for one, have more confidence in God than that, though. I have confidence that He is able to do all He sets out to do, that He is able to complete His work — even in me.

Perhaps it is security that gives us the courage to quest and seek a role in God’s epic adventure. Perhaps it is the desire to contribute in some significant way to a story larger than our own that drives us to form the securest of bonds with kindred spirits, those born of blood and those born of faith and covenant too.

The more I think about it, the less the bifurcation irritates me, and the easier it is to simply dismiss it out of hand. The truly stupid part of this idea, sold to me in those formative teenage years, is that any one of us can be cleanly located, because of our gender, into one or the other little, tiny box. As if God has boxes at all.

God made each of us in His image and called us to wage war against evil and bring heaven to earth — what role could possibly be more significant?

God made each of us for Himself and named us — brother, sister, daughter, son — what relationship could possibly bring greater security?

Let the Owen Strachan’s of the world keep on deriding women like me. I’m sticking with Eowyn.

Poetry Friday: “Follow”


Supper at Emmaus (Caravaggio)


Can you love who you do not love
even crushed beneath the
weight of your own pain?

Can you swallow evil down
bile turning to acid yet
not vomit it out?

Can you hold rejection in your own hands
while it blisters and burns
trusting Me to heal the scars?

Can you let Me kill you with the hope
I’ll raise you from the grave
and not forget?

I think I knew from that first moment
Dove resting on My head
How it all would end
Not the horror of it, mind you
No one could have foreseen that.

Can you feel the welts rise on your back
from the lash that loves to
separate flesh from bone?

Can you hold your tongue amid snarls of accusation
when you know better
when you know all there is to know?

Can you face the man who thinks he is your enemy
grip the table as he strikes you in your face
see him convulsed in confusion and fear?

Can you let your tears mix freely with your blood
without needing to explain
from whence they came?

Can you follow Me there
where theology fails and
evil plays every card?

Can you live without answers?
walk an untrod path?
die for a man’s choice to hate you?

Will you follow Me there?

Then take My hand
end My loneliness
walk with Me
to the cross
the tomb
wait for Me
to rise
journey with Me
to Emmaus
hear it all explained
until the ground
beneath our feet
turns to gold
in the New Jerusalem.

I am the Lord’s servant
May it be to me according to Your word.
Tho’ a sword pierce my soul
and my heart shatter,
do not send me away.
Let me go where You go
show me what it means to be 

Your beloved.

From the Rabbi, on Mother’s Day: From “Tears in the Night” to “Wiping Away Every Tear”

Having ended my last blog with my poem, “Tears in the Night,” I thought I should recap God’s grace over the last 38 years to “wipe away every tear.” My grief for Jessica was not only due to the shortness of her life, but also the fact that I was not able to connect with her for her short six days of life or in the days that followed her death. With both our children the hospital offered to take care of their bodies to spare us the agony of having to make funeral arrangements. Little did I know then how much I would regret this “gift.” As a pastor, I am called to bury other people’s children. I stand beside them as they silently place their children in the ground and say their painful goodbyes. The grave of their son or daughter is forever marked with a stone. That stone becomes a sacred place of memory to which they return on a regular basis to remember, to mourn, to worship, to cry and to laugh. For years Emily and I had no place to go.

Where did the Sower plant the seed?
I long to know,
but it is hidden from me.

Years passed and then my friend Jim Zeigler, a counselor at Alta Mesa Cemetery, discovered that Jessica’s ashes had been scattered at his cemetery. He called me to get all the information about our children, and then had a gravestone specially made for them. Slide05Their names and dates are now etched in stone in our backyard. Underneath their names is the verse from David’s psalm:

Weeping my lodge for the night,
but a shout of joy comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5

How do you thank someone who goes to such lengths to carve your children’s names in stone? One tear wiped away.

After we had been restored with sacred space, God gave me the gift of my daughter’s voice. Whenever I teach the Psalms, I always have my students share their personal psalms at the end of the quarter. It is the highlight of the class. On one occasion at Western Seminary, a young woman named Jessica stood to read her poem. Before she began I asked, “What is your middle name?”

She smiled and said, “Lynne” (my daughter’s middle name).

“What year were you born?”


“What month?”


Jessica Lynne Morgan


Now I can feel my gut tightening and my tears beginning to swell.

“What day?”

“November 30” – the exact day my daughter had been born.

As Jessica read her poem, I was in speechless wonder that, for just this one day, I was able to hear my daughter’s voice. There may be joys that equal it, but for this father none surpass the elation of hearing a daughter’s voice. One more tear wiped away.

Time would fail me if I were to recount the scores of conferences, retreats and schools where I have had the joy of teaching the Psalms and the power of the poem––locally, Southern California, Texas, Colorado, Canada, Oregon, Washington, Romania, Albania, Croatia––and on each and every occasion, after teaching on David’s lament for Jonathan, I offer my poem to Jessica. Funny thing about poetry, the words never get old, worn out or banal. The metaphors remain as rich and carry as much emotion as the first time they were uttered. And the love that I experience for my daughter is enriched and deepened in the presence of God’s people in ways I couldn’t have imagined. The key is you have to be free to cry. Many more tears wiped away.

God’s grace was still not done. In the spring of 2011 my dear friend Jim Zeigler died of ALS. Jim was deeply loved by our church and community, so much so that we had to move his memorial service to a church that could accommodate over 1000 people. The service was one of those rare times where time stood still, the worship was dense with a palpable presence that released our tears, and every word was as heart spoken and tender as our beloved Jim. A residue of God’s presence from Jim’s memorial carried me into the pulpit the next day. My text I had planned that week was 2 Samuel 1, to be concluded with Jessica’s poem. However, after Jim’s passing I wasn’t sure it was appropriate to do my daughter’s poem. But Karen (the one you all know) encouraged me and said, “When you read her poem, make sure you breathe in between the lines to let her in.” I took her advice and it worked. A special tear wiped away.

The next day our pastoral staff left for a retreat at Lake Tahoe. We were led by Jim Gaderlund, a fellow pastor and gifted spiritual director. The first night he led us in a reflective communion time. Before we took the elements he told us to take stock of where we have been. If we were hurting, we cold select a rock from a selection he had arranged on the table and place it on the altar. If we were rejoicing, we could select a flower from a large bouquet he had bought and place it on the altar. When my turn came, I decided I wanted to express my appreciation to Jesus for incredible gift of healing he had granted to me since the death of my daughter, Jessica. From the bouquet I selected a large yellow daisy and just before I set it on the altar I kissed it. Immediately after I kissed it I had the strange sensation that I had just kissed my daughter––Jessica’s presence was palpable. I couldn’t hold back my tears and felt compelled to tell someone, but I thought, “Who can I tell who won’t think I’m crazy?” When communion ended, I grabbed my friend and co-pastor, James, and said, “I just kissed my daughter!” Now more tears, but these are ones I don’t want to wipe away.

On the eve of Mother’s Day I thought it appropriate to include one more Jessica moment. Emily and I never had celebrated Jessica’s birthday until 2011. Two of our grandchildren were coming for dinner, and being that it was Jessica’s birthday, she thought it would be fun to celebrate her birthday. Since God had allowed me to hear Jessica’s voice, I thought Emily should as well. So I composed a letter from Jessica to her mother. I called my daughter, Jenny, and asked if she would come join us for dinner and give her sister a voice to her mother, which she did.

November 30th, 2011

Dear Mom,

Today is my 35th birthday and I heard you will be celebrating with dad and my little sister, Jenny, along with my nieces, Mary and Emmy, and my nephew Wesley. So I asked papa to get you some yellow roses to remember me by. Yellow is my favorite color, because it matches my blonde hair, but most of all, because it reminds me of you. You probably wonder what I look like. It’s hard to describe my glorious, new body – but I look a lot like Jenny, but with Katie’s curls. Lucky for me I didn’t get daddy’s nose, but like all your children, my eyes are blue.

As you celebrate my birthday I want you to know what a blessing you are to me.

Though I was tragically taken out of your arms to be by my brother’s side, my little life was shaped and sheltered solely by a mother’s love. For nine months as I bonded with you i n the sweet shelter of your womb, my delicate frame was knitted together by God’s loving hands. I was wondrously made, and all my days ordained for me, were written in His book, before even one of them came to be. You took such good care of me, even though you could not see my face. I know you and dad worked hard to prepare a special place for my arrival, with new wallpaper, a refurbished crib and a changing table.

When I arrived, you held me with an indescribable love and tenderness. For three wonderful days I had the privilege of gazing into your eyes as I nursed. The feeling of security and well-being you provided was so compelling, I quickly learned to trust God in the trouble that lay ahead.

Those were painful days, I know more for you than me. You wanted to see me grow up, to crawl, to walk, to sing, to play soccer, to date, to give me away, and to see my children. But, as daddy wrote, it ended much too quickly:

            My eyes could not gaze on your little tent,
            which would all too soon
            be broken down and laid to rest
            in the earth, rather than upon a breast.

As you and daddy were engulfed in sorrow, I lay down to sleep and awoke in a new world where heaven fills the very air you breathe. I began to grow and explore its never-ending beauty with my brother, David. Like him, I never experienced the pains of sin or any of the cruelty that happens on earth. I only knew a mother’s love.

But there is more. I got to see another side of things, that perhaps you could not see. When you prayed for me, heaven became silent for about half an hour. Then I heard the deepest groaning and sighs that were beyond compassion, followed by a sudden burst of energy and commotion. Angels were summoned and sent with an urgency I have rarely seen. Out of the death of dreams, seeds of hope were planted in human hearts and corporate prayers were offered in faith. A baby born by Christmas, who would have thought? The gift of another daughter for my broken-hearted mother.

As I peer into your world 35 years later, I can see the fruit of a mother’s prayers. Did you ever dream of being entrusted with so many gifts? One son and four daughters, three granddaughters and two grandsons! Not to mention the scores of preschoolers who found shelter under your wings.

In Hebrew your name means “mother.” And I, Jessica Lynne Morgan, am forever privileged to be known as your daughter.



Reblogged: “Me ‘n NT” by Bronwyn Lea


But life conspired against me and instead of spending an evening learning about the Psalms from the inimitable N.T. Wright (“Tom” when he’s being a man of the people), I spent the evening pushing my kids to do the homework they Simply Cannot Do Anymore. OMG, when is this school year going to end? WHEN!!??

Anyway, the next best thing to actually being there? Getting this recap on the evening by my new and fabulous friend, blogger Bronwyn Lea. Give it a read and see what Tom Wright had to say at his San Francisco presentation on the Psalms.

Me ‘n NT.

Thanks Bron for the write up!


What Can We Do To #bringbackourgirls?

UPDATE: I just spent a few minutes (4:45 PST) seeing if the US news cycle was paying any closer attention and it is. CNN, FoxNews and the NYT are all running headlining stories about what is happening with our Nigerian girls. 


The best assessment says that as of this morning (PST) 276 Nigerian students (and 8 more kidnapped last night) are in their third week as captives of terrorists who have stated within the last 48 hours that they intend to sell — TO SELL –– these students, all of whom are teenage girls, into sex slavery.BmhrO4LCQAAPvqy

The public response has been steadily growing this week, due in part to the fact that Western media have finally started to cover the story.There have been a number of blog posts I have read, by people I respect, suggesting that the reason we are not more outraged by these kidnappings is because the girls are African. Had they been white, well the whole world would have cared.

That might be true, but oddly I’m not feeling that cynical right now. I think — maybe I just hope — that the reason the response in the West has been apathetic is that we don’t know what to do. Had Western girls been kidnapped, we would have witnessed a whole host of aggressive responses — from law enforcement, from government, from jurisprudence, from citizens. We would have had ample opportunity to give money to groups attacking the situation head on. We would have ways to join our voice to many and demand these cowards give back our girls.

I think many of us see these Nigerian daughters as our own.  I do. The color of their skin, the nation of their birth, these matter not a whit to me. I don’t think they matter to you either. We just don’t know what to do.

My intent in this post is to brainstorm actionable ways we can participate in the global rescue effort of our girls. I hope this list gets passed around so others can add to it:

Get Educated & Get Vocal with Media Coverage

Most of the major news outlets are now covering the story, although some are burying it, so head to your favorite go-to news source and get educated on what is happening. If your news outlet of choice is not headlining this story, email the news desk or the editorial team and complain. Here are some links to make it easy:

  • CNN International  — CNN US, as usual, thinks Americans don’t care what’s happening in the rest of the world. Prove Them Wrong. Set your CNN browser to the International Edition and never, ever change it back.
  • New York Times — the NYT is NOT headlining this story. To find the story, click through “International” and then scroll below the (traditional) fold to find the story.
  • Fox News — Fox is NOT headlining this story either. It is located as a line item in the Latest News subsection.
  • BBC — One of 8 top news stories.
  • Reuters — Not top story but its at least above the fold.
  • Wall Street Journal — Buried in World section (paid content). WSJ is running a Breaking News Banner — announcing the death of an 81 year old person. WSJ can do better.

If you want to make your voice heard by the news outlets, frequent the Websites of media who are covering this story. Write the editorial departments of the ones that are not. Demand they cover the story. Email the stories to everyone you know so they get ranked at the top of the “most emailed.”

Get Engaged via Social Media

  • If you have a Facebook page, publish the story there — make sure your friends and acquaintances have access to information about these kidnappings.
  • If you have a Twitter account, tweet at #bringourgirlsback and at #bringbackourgirls– join the conversation


  • If you need some words to help you, read Sarah Bessey’s prayer that she posted this morning. She will usher you right into God’s presence. As Brian taught two weeks ago, a small faith in a great God is capable of planting the tree of life in the dead center of chaos and evil. Pray with me. Pray for their safety. Pray for their escape. Pray that God would raise up an army of rescuers. Pray that God fill the storehouses full of resources to help these girls reunite with their families, process their trauma, return to their studies and shape their world with their gifts. Pray not one of them is lost to us. Not one.

Petition the White House to Engage

Think of The Nigerian Students as Our Girls, Their Families as Our Families

  • Do not shy away from using language that ties our community to theirs. We don’t use the words “our girls” to mean possessiveness but solidarity. These are children who belong to our global community, and we are horrified and outraged when the safety of our community is breached.  We will rain consequence down on the heads of those who would violate the sanctity of our community. When suffering happens in Nigeria, when girls are trafficked for sex in our backyard or halfway around the world, we need to identify with that suffering, we need to sweat blood, lay awake sleepless, until they are home.

Support International Anti-Trafficking Groups

  • There are some outstanding ones out there. My church community is engaged with International Justice Mission and I endorse them 100%. I guarantee you they are working covertly to bring back our girls. Support them. Send money. Get on their email list. Don’t expect to see anything about this on their Website or in their formal communications. They have to operate covertly given the evil they are confronting, not just in Nigeria but around the world. The thing about the global anti-trafficking response is that the more individuals do small things, the faster slavery will be destroyed. It is not only OK to do something small.  It is necessary. It is valuable. It is essential. This is not a problem that a few “important” people can solve. This is a problem that will only be solved when millions upon millions of us do small things.

Spread the Word

I have this thought that the more precious these 284 Nigerian girls become in this, our global village, the harder it is going to be to sell them. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the whole world made it clear that no one was going to touch these girls without dire consequence, and they became unsellable, as if someone stole the Mona Lisa and found not even the black market would buy it?  One thing we know about human traffickers — they are cowards motivated by money. Let’s raise our voices as one voice and make sure they know these girls, that all our daughters are beyond priceless. They are Not For Sale.

If you have information or ideas on what else we can do as we go about our daily lives here, halfway across the world from this atrocious evil, please comment and let the rest of us know what you know. I’ll aggregate what I can and keep refreshing this post as long as these girls remain in captivity.


Poetry (Good) Friday: Re-imagining victory

It is of course Good Friday, and like all my Jesus-following friends, I’m trying to live this day and the rest of the weekend particularly mindful of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and what that all means.


Exodus by Marc Chagall

I’m not really succeeding though. To say I am distracted is an understatement. Easter is late this year, so these sacred days are falling right when we are entering the final, insane march to the end of the school year — our days are jammed with activities and homework, medical checkups and ortho appointments, end-of-the year party planning and soccer tournaments.

I want to retreat, to find myself a quiet, anonymous corner somewhere and breathe. Pray. Ponder. Read and re-read the full story of redemption, trace my fingers across page after page of Israel’s story and find myself there too as we walk and wander and try to make sense of all that God reveals along the mystifying way of our oh-so-human journeys.

But I can’t.

My dear friend Stephanie assures me this is seasonal, par for the course of having young children and being faithful in the day-to-day life God has set before me. I’m thankful for that word of grace from her, and for now, it carries me.

I have found my mind wandering a bit today though, back through Israel’s history and what the Cross must have looked like at that fateful moment. We Westerners with our short historical attention span, we don’t (maybe can’t) fully appreciate how rich was the tradition that was re-inacted, re-framed and then exploded into enormous, life-altering proportions there in Gethsemane by Jesus. But those with ears to hear and eyes to see bore witness to the beginning of the eschaton. As the rabbi says, “What the Jews were expecting at the end of history God did in the middle of history” and that gets right to the heart of why (for any who are not Jesus followers and wonder what the fuss is all about), why we believers get so excited at Easter.

Back in my year in the Psalms I wrote a poem about this based on Psalms 20 & 21. So, here it is for Poetry Friday … have a great Good Friday everyone.

Victory Redux (Psalms 20-21)

Psalm 20 and 21 seem to be companion poems, with 20 describing (as Kidner titles it) “A Day of Trouble” and 21 describing “A Day of Rejoicing.” Psalm 20 and 21, when taken together, are clearly Messianic, but I was struck by how differently the Day of Trouble and the Day of Rejoicing played out for David and Jesus.

One man
crowned with gold stands in for the people.
Victory means freedom
Defeat means slavery
Life and death are at stake.

The people
chosen as one nation stand by their king
They pray for help
They trust in God
Weapons of war are futile.

Oh Lord, give victory;
Let the king answer us.

One man
crowned with thorns stands in for the people.
Victory means death
Defeat means escape
All creation holds its breath.

The people
drawn from every nation mock their King.
We divide his clothes
We pierce his side
The crowd is rabid with the kill.

Oh Lord, give victory;
Let the king answer us.


The Son of Man
crowned in glory enthroned among the nations
Hair white as snow
Eyes blazing as fire
Feet glowing as hot bronze
Voice like rushing water
Face brighter than the sun



From Richard Beck: the Psalms as Liberation Theology

I first came across Richard Beck on a blogpost by Rachel Held Evans, and whenever I get the chance I pop back to his website for more reading.

Imagine my delight, then, when I came across this post from last month on the Psalms as Liberation Theology. I think he is on to something here, and certainly my own year of studying the Psalms and writing poems in response took me time and time again to the challenging question, Who (or what) is my enemy? It is one of those questions (like all good questions) that, if you answer it too quickly, you will miss all life-changing truth God is offering.

What I mostly love about this post from Beck is that it is an honest reading of the psalms — not an apologetic one but an intensely personal one — because once you have identified your enemy(ies), the real question becomes, What will you do next?

Take a read … I’d love to hear your thoughts!



When lingerie comes up twice in a week you just have to talk about it

God cares about lingerie, but not for the reasons you might think.

I came of age in the 80s, the era of the Supermodel and Victoria’s Secret. My mom probably tried to explain to me what these things were all about, but I don’t remember (she will point out I have the worst memory in the history of memory!)

I was not really into the girl scene, frankly. I played sports and read books and simply didn’t bother with the magazines targeted at pre-teens and teens.


This is how you market bras to girls. Image taken from www.yellowberrycompany.com

I was Not Fashionable In Any Way — those of you who know me not just can’t believe that, amiright??

But without my tacit knowledge, I took away something fundamental from those years: what made a female attractive was the degree to which she met all the cultural expectations for the male gaze. I wasted an unforgivable amount of time and energy trying to turn myself — through diet, exercise, shopping and self-loathing — into an acceptable thing that met all those expectations.

Needless to say, I failed. And now, finally, at the ripe age of almost 45, I’m glad I did.

Purely by God’s grace, I met a man who wanted to go through life side by side with a person, an actual woman, not a sweetly packaged up set of cultural and religious check-boxes. Never, not once, in the 18 years since I met David, have I ever felt objectified by him. I cannot adequately describe in words what an unbelievable gift this is to me as a person but mostly as a woman who is constantly objectified everywhere else — to find in the safety of my marriage a place for my full and unfettered humanity.

So when a friend of mine said to me last week that he had bought lingerie for his girlfriend that he has “not yet enjoyed,” I cringed (and told him so), and suggested that perhaps he ought to get her something that isn’t for him at all.

Like, um, I don’t know, A GIFT.

And when an article popped up on my Facebook feed about a teenaged girl who crowdsourced a company to make bras for girls that do not sexualize them, I cried, actual tears, in appreciation for the young woman who built Yellowberry (http://www.yellowberrycompany.com/) for girls like mine so that maybe, just maybe, they won’t waste the same number of hours and years I did trying to make themselves into a thing for male consumption.


This too! Image taken from www.yellowberrycompany.com

Times are most certainly changing.

My daughters are growing up as athletes and scholars, strong of body, mind and soul. They are growing up with the idea that the God who loves them with a fierce, wild, outrageous love made them to bear His image in the world, that God made their female bodies and pronounced them good, not because males approve of them but because with those bodies they become part of the body of Christ. They are learning what it means not only to have a body but to be a body, how to choose clothes and shoes, yes, even bras that free them up to live life on their own terms, and to seek God directly for what those terms might be. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

My girls are learning day by day that God made them to stand tall, with their shoulders back and their eyes up, in full and unapologetic equality with their brothers, tasked with bringing shalom to the whole Earth, tasked with being a blessing to the nations. And as far as men are concerned, my girls are already drawn to the ones who take them seriously, who listen to them and laugh with them, who play basketball with them in the pool and watch their soccer games from the sidelines. Men who are neither afraid of their female bodies nor overemphasize them, as if they were limited in some fundamental way because of them.

My daughters are not unique. This new generation of ezers is going to turn the world upside down.

I couldn’t be more proud.