Category Archives: On Faith

When God Disrupts Your Christmas Plans on Purpose

Emmanuel. God with us. That’s the core of Christmas, that God the Son left his place in Heaven and came to us as a baby in a manger. What an unlikely beginning for a King. Talk about a disruption.

Our pastor spoke last Sunday of just what that Incarnation looked like, how God came into the world at Christmas. There was a visual he mentioned of Jesus putting his hand on peoples’ hearts to “stop the bleeding.” Not physical bleeding, but that dissipation and dissolution that leads to pain and hurt, often making us act like the broken people we are.

Sometimes just being kind during Christmas is all someone needs to transfuse them with life. I know it’s all I need. Which is why celebrating the birth of Jesus is an act of defiance, to choose to live like people who know that He came.

To notice others, speak kindly to them, acknowledge their worth as people made in God’s image. Wish them a “Merry Christmas” but also ask how they’re doing when they look harassed and harried. During this season most of all we are challenged to incarnate Jesus to the world in the face of all that would cause us to do otherwise.  To choose joy in spite of what we see around us.

“Incarnate” means to embody in the flesh. Sometimes (most times) the way we act is more important than what we say. We don’t have to even mention Jesus’ name, but simply act in order that a door might open someday for a conversation about Him.

Of course, there is an enemy of our souls who wants to steal our joy and hijack our message, so it makes sense that it might seem like all Hell breaks loose in the weeks before Christmas. I know, I probably shouldn’t say ‘hell’ in the same sentence where I’m talking about Christ’s birth and all. But I think when God’s kingdom is advancing in the small ways we seek to honor him, there is always pushback.

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What’s in a Name? Only Everything {an Advent Post}

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There can be no manner of doubt a name is more easily remembered when its meaning is understood.      –A.J. Macself, from the Foreword, “Plant Names Simplified”

I forgot to plant my amaryllis bulb the week of All Hallow’s Eve. I wrote about the practice in my Christmas season book, how planting a crinkly, brown bulb with antenna-like roots can be a lesson in patience and waiting during the Advent and Christmas season. But I was too busy to remember. Goodness.

So, I potted the inglorious bulb the other day after soaking the accompanying ground-up coconut shreds in warm water, watching them miraculously expand and nearly overtake my 32-ounce glass measuring cup. Amaryllis duly snugged into plastic container, I pondered something while I cleaned up the mess in my sink.

What does ‘amaryllis’ mean, anyway?

I’m fond of learning the Latin for plant names, shrubs and trees. As an amateur gardener, I pride myself on the pronunciation and meaning of the various denizens of my yard and garden. And some of the names are not Latin at all, but simply named for people or a place.

–Susan Magnolia

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-Japanese Stewartia

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-Shindishojo Maple

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-Lonicera (Honeysuckle)

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Ready for the Sights of the Season (sort of)

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol   

I’m sure you’ve noticed….the fervor of the Christmas season often assaults us from September’s end all the way until December. The other day while shopping at Costco I felt just that–overwhelmed by an onslaught of Christmas music, faux decorations and mountain of toys two aisles wide. While I rounded the corner next to cases of hummus and casserole fixings, I sighed and pondered our desperate need for a slower walk into the coming season.

I wish more folks in the world ordered their lives around the church calendar and its feasts rather than the calendar of consumerism. Along with harvest decorations and the Halloween costumes there’s mechanical Santas and fake flocked Christmas wreaths at nearly every department store around.

I suppose Costco prescribes to Dickens’ philosophy above, that of keeping Christmas (almost) the entire year. While I support the spirit of this sentiment–being filled with peace and goodwill towards all men–the crush of gift-giving and pressures of picture-perfect holidays miss the point completely. We would do well–I would do well–to remember the need for a slow walk into the season; Advent is the perfect place to begin.  

After All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) we observe All Saints Day on the church calendar, an occasion for remembering all the saints, known and unknown. After that is the last church feast day in Ordinary Time-the Story of the People of God, Christ the King Sunday on November 24th. We are then ushered into the season of Advent and the months that encompass the Story of Jesus from his birth until the celebration of Pentecost. This graphic below is helpful to me, a clueless Evangelical, when it comes to understanding the church year. Perhaps you’ll find it an aid to your understanding as well.

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photo credit-Renovare.org

As with much of Christianity, the church year can be radically countercultural, a much-needed light showing a better way to live. In a culture that is often too hurried and distracted, the church year helps us pay attention because it draws our focus continually back to Christ.    -K.C. Ireton, The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year Continue reading

When God’s Word Goes Haywire {Operator Error}

P_20181111_130112You know how it is when you’re clicking around online and you visit a website link looking for information and up pops that 404 Error message?

I was stuck in a rabbit hole kind of like that recently, stewing for weeks over an issue (always the battleground for me, the ol’ noggin) and could not seem to get past it. I had worried the situation to death, played scenarios over and over again about a particular Terrible Thing that I needed to pray against and it wouldn’t go away. I woke up with it on my mind and went to bed mumbling about it in my prayers.

There was spiritual warfare going on like crazy, fighting principalities and powers, pushing back that stupid devil/destroyer/stealer. I was in a battle for sure.

So~one night in the shower--the land of ‘aha’s’, we all know this, right?–I heard the first half of John 10:10 running through my head, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy….” and the next thing I heard was the Holy Spirit saying, “Um, there’s the abundant life part. You forgot the rest of the verse.”

The problem with memorizing Scripture, if I may be so bold, is that sometimes the wrong parts stick. I’d been so uber-focused on the steal/kill/destroy part of the verse in John that it had overshadowed completely the fact that God is a good and abundant God.

He is aware of what is needed and able to take care of those we love. He is not blind to what’s going on in our lives and the lives of others. He’s not caught by surprise with the challenges we face. He is rich in mercy, lovingkindness and grace. And he’s like superpowerful, to use the theological term, capable of accomplishing what seems impossible.

So, in my head, I made up a counter-ditty for the God Team.

Ready? 

The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. But Jesus comes to heal, build and give joy.  Heal, build and give joy. That’s what He does. That’s what He’s all about. That’s who He is, what His character contains. Resurrection power, unending love and unlimited resources.

I’d like to work on memorizing t h a t.

Here’s a picture I made in case you need to remember, too. heal, build and give joyThis week look for Scriptures as you read that focus on God’s capabilities, his care and his concern. See how it turns your prayers around and then let me know how it goes;  I’d love to hear about it.

10 Reasons to Smile–A Photo Essay

I heard someone once say that “art is a way of seeing.” I think learning how to pay attention is an art, too. There is so much remarkable beauty all around us, inside, outside all around, particularly here in the “upper lefthand corner” of the United States where I live. My bi-monthly newsletter talks about the ‘miraculous to mundane’ parts of our days, because that’s where we live. Here’s what I saw when I was looking.

I never tire of this view from our upstairs deck, the way the trees frame the clouds and the horizon. Even when I’m standing at the kitchen sink there’s a far away scene to fill my soul.

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The other day I purposefully took a crazy long way home from the grocery store (talk about mundane). But this made up for it, a tree-lined winding drive right off one our main highways. I literally stopped in the middle of the road and snapped this photo. Wouldn’t you?

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My friend Kimberlee and I were walking on a path around a lake in Seattle last week and stopped to photograph these mushrooms. One of the locals pointed out they’re s u p e r poisonous, like don’t even touch them poisonous unless you wash your hands afterwards. But they look like there should be gnomes or fairies hiding right next to them, don’t you think?

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This is beautyberry in my front yard after last week’s rain. Aptly named, yes? I love the purple against the green.

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These fuschia blossoms land on the stairs below the basket hanging on our deck. They looked like resting ballerinas to me. Sometimes there is remarkable, delicate beauty right at our feet.

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The colors in our backyard this time of year always catch me by surprise. The russet colored tree that’s aflame with reddish orange is a Japanese Stewartia. It blooms with white flowers in the summer, another happy surprise.

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I took this photo the other morning on my walk. I was captivated by the way the light shone between the trees, like Jesus might be coming right through the sky.

P_20181011_134337This is Greenlake in Seattle,which should be called Golden Pond, yes? Look at the mirrored reflection on the surface of the water. It looks like a painting.

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I remember a line in Laura Barkat’s book, God in the Yard–Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us, “smallness permits attention.”  I’m also reminded of a phrase from Seamus Heaney when I look at this photo about the “diamond absolutes.” Can you see the diamonds?

One more miracle in the middle of the mundane. I was walking through the Wal-Mart parking lot yesterday and looked up at this supernatural sight–a lake in the air? A feather in the sky? Only God. Only God.

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I’m so grateful every day for the beautiful place where I get to live. I’m grateful, too, for the way God has tuned my eyes to pay attention to miracles–big or small–from lakes to fuschia blossoms.

May He grant you one or two moments of glorious ‘aha!’s in your day today.

((If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter–next one is in November--just click here.))

Welcome to my Brand Spanking New Space!

Hello to readers new and old! ((Old and young? Recent and longtime?? I never know how to say that)).

How was your Summer?! Mine was busy with lots of travel–to Southern California and Santa Fe–remarkable and rich! Home remodeling–yay, a new sliding door! Plus full and fun (exhausting) visits with our five grandkids. But so.worth.it. 

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Santa Fe Sky, St. John’s College. Just God showing off.Since we last said hello around the end of July, my amazing Webgal Gretchen (whom I refer to as the Fairy Godmother), has been working behind the scenes to work her magic. I felt like all I did is dust off the furniture and move things around to make things more organized.  But s h e hung all the pictures.

Isn’t it gorgeous??

Why a New Look?

Glad you asked. As God has refined my presence and purpose here on the internet, I’ve discovered my gift to you, dear Reader, is to serve as a kind of virtual Bulletin Board where folks can find information, inspiration and encouragement. I’ll be sharing about everything from the particulars of writing and the journey of putting one’s work out in the world, to directing you to resources for illuminating poetry, new Christian voices and some helpful lists, too. (You’ll find a few up there under the ‘Lists’ tab right now).

After a visit last Spring to a Christian writer’s conference, I came back more committed than ever to also feature weekly essays about the work of two groups of people underrepresented (IMHO) in the blogosphere, Faith Writers Over 50 (The Sage Ones) and Christian Writers of Color. There will be interviews and book reviews for you to get to know these fine folks better. 

Weekly posts might also be ‘Listicles’–Articles in a List–like

  • 10 Things I Learned at the Writer’s Conference
  • 5 Travel Tips for Uber Novices
  • 5 Online Christian Communities to Visit
  • 5 Places on the Web for Women in the Word
  • 5 Non-Profits I Trust
  • 5 Female Pastors Who Write
  • 3 Blogs about Faith and Food
  • Five Female Faith Poets You Should Know
  • 20 Christian Poets of the Twentieth Century

You’ll find occasional poetry (mine) and a new book announcement at the end of the year.

Under Resources, you’ll find my Editing Services and soon-to-be-launched ‘Self Publishing 101’, a topic that has garnered interest among many writers. I’m also working on a Speaker page (if you’ve been part of a gathering where I had a chance to say a few words, I’d be so grateful if you could share your remarks in the Comments below. I’ll contact you if you don’t mind me using your thoughts later).

And, since I got a ‘big girl’ camera the first of June, I’ll be changing the photos from time to time at the ribbon across the top. Sunsets and flowers are favorite subjects. And the way light falls across a room. Or a floor.

I do hope you’ll subscribe for once-a-week posts from yours truly as I share the wonders of this wide world with you.  Simply enter your email in the “Sign up Here to Receive Exclusive Content” box and you’ll be on your way.

I also have the next edition of my newsletter waiting in the wings–for which you can sign up right HERE.

While things have been quiet-ish here, some of my poetry found its way into two fine publications–print and online.

‘Revelation’ is in the newest issue of iola magazine, ‘Bloom’. You can order it here (and get a free book!) There is much to love in this second edition and I’m honored to be a small part of this beautiful endeavor.

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And, although a serious topic, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a poem I penned about the suicide of a lifelong friend at the end of May. Wrapping words around the world is the way I process things, so I wrote a poem. You can read “For D.” here at Barren Magazine online. It was one of the Editor’s Picks for the inaugural issue; that kinda blew me away. 

While I think launching this new website is a Very Big Deal, I realize in the grand scheme of things it isn’t likely to do much for world peace or global warming. I can’t solve the U. S. trade deficit or make sure that hungry children in this world will be fed. 

What I can do, however, is pick up the pen (or the keyboard) that’s in my hand and offer you a glimpse of God’s glory through the people and the world He’s made. We are surrounded by beauty and wonder and creativity if we only could see it; perhaps my job is to hand you a telescope and say, “hey, look at this!”

Actually, I think if we all just did our own little square (instead of the entire quilt, as the saying goes) we’d make a whole lotta difference right where we are.

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That’s all for now. In the grand scheme of things.

Just one more thing: If you know someone who’d enjoy my work, please share the love.  Buttons are right below. Bless you!