Christian Bookstore, Holy Week

Jesus and I are on an outing the week before Easter.  We pull up to the strip mall; He unbuckles his seatbelt as I turn off the ignition.  As we climb out of the car and walk towards an open door He remarks, “Oh, a Christian bookstore; let’s see what they’re selling.”

We step inside and nearly run into a banner displaying ‘Resurrection Eggs.” The table holds cardboard cartons with plastic egg-shaped containers inside.  A sample shows Scripture verses are tucked inside.

“How are these used?” He ponders, puzzling as he holds one in His hand.
“They’re eggs. Are they for farm children?  And why are they called ‘Resurrection Eggs’?  I wasn’t hatched on Easter morning.”

He has a point. I hesitate.
“Well, Lord, they’re witnessing tools. Kind of a combination of the pagan traditions around Springtime mixed with Biblical truths.”

“Oh…I wonder why they had to mix things up like that.  The truth can stand on its own.  Why did they have to put it in such a fancy package?”

I have no answer.

He picks up several items on the table–a Resurrection banner, a “He is Risen” coffee mug.
“I see they’re made in China. Actually, everything’s made in China–are there that many Christians in China, to make all this?” He sweeps his arm through the air, surveying the store.

“Well, Lord, the labor’s cheaper there so it’s a wise use of money, I guess.”
“Cheap labor?  That sounds like exploiting people and taking advantage of their station in life.

“I didn’t die for that.”

We peruse the shelves and I mention the names of Christian friends who have new books out.  We look for their titles in the front of the store but have to wander a few aisles before we get to the Christian Living section.

“Why are there sections?” Jesus asks.  “Isn’t it all Christian Living?”

The book titles are interesting and some are a bit of a surprise.
He pulls down a volume titled, “Wounded by God’s People.”

“Oh, it’s by Anne Graham Lotz.  I know her father, Billy.  I gave him many, many messages to share with the world and he always went wherever I asked him to.  He has always told people how I loved them so.”
A sad look comes over his face as he fingers the title.  ‘Wounded by God’s People.’

“I didn’t die for that.”

We look around for my friend’s book.  I mention her name–Jennifer.  “She’s a reporter from Iowa,” I tell Him.

“Oh, I remember giving her that book to write.  She decided to call it ‘Love Idol’.  Let’s go see if they have it.

We turn to the Women’s Section, thinking the little yellow book should be there.
“Again with the sections,” he laments. “Why all these divisions? I died for everyone.”

We ask a clerk about the title I’m looking for; Christ’s eyes widen at the response.
“We couldn’t stock the book, I’m sorry.  It had the word ‘idol’ in the title.”

“But this is a Christian bookstore, right?  Where you want to shine a light on sin and tell the truth, right? That’s what her book is about–setting people free.”

The puzzled clerk simply repeats, “I’m sorry, sir, we can’t carry it.”

I can tell the Lord has had enough.
“Maybe we should go,” I suggest.
Jesus agrees and decides He won’t purchase anything, having paid for it all already.

As we walk out the door and look towards the lightening sky over the cars He mentions the days ahead, Easter on the horizon.

“Perhaps we can find some people tomorrow who are truly Christians living.
After all, that’s what I died for.”
~~~~~~~~~
The seeds for this post began when I went to look for a book by Jennifer Dukes Lee at a Christian bookstore during the week before Easter. I hadn’t set foot in one for some time as I had been overwhelmed on my previous visit with a kind of sick feeling at all the commercialism and not-like-Jesus displays.
I couldn’t help wondering what Jesus would have thought of the kinds of marketplaces Christian bookstores have become.
Shouldn’t they be different than a secular bookstore, maybe sharing truth and shining the light–ALL OF THE LIGHT that Jesus brought into the world?
~~~~~
this is a slightly edited version of a post which first appeared in April 2014

Why Writing in Community is Like Life Support

Five years ago this last January I jumped into the Christian blogosphere, sending my little pieces of bread out on to the invisible waters of the internet.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know, thank goodness! If I had, perhaps I would have never started. Of course then I would have missed the rich gift of community that I found in the process. Many of those pieces of bread have returned to me in remarkable ways in these five short years, not the least of which are you my dear readers.

Oh, You Too?!

One day shortly after I launched Three Way Light I was reading around the web and found a kindred soul, Kimberlee Conway Ireton, whose blog I liked very much. The header photo at the top of her page made me swoon–ooooh, a book lover. What I found resonated deeply with me on many levels—her writing about the need for quiet and solitude, contemplative practices and her penchant for classic literature.  When I clicked on the ‘About’ tab on her blog (I was doing a lot of ‘About’ clicking then), I nearly jumped out of my chair when I discovered she lived in Seattle.  So do I! (well, close-ish) She lived in Fresno, CA, for many years (so did I!).

After reading Kimberlee’s blogposts throughout that first year, leaving my weekly comments, I made up my mind to reach out and introduce myself. Because that’s what I do–connect with complete strangers to make my world a little smaller.

Kimberlee responded, inviting me to come to her house for tea and writing talk; I was overjoyed to do so, as you never know how people will respond when you’re extroverting all over the place. (And Kimberlee is (ahem) an introvert.) Her four children, including 2 year old twins, kept her home schooling days full—the older children were 7 and 9 at the time–but she didn’t mind letting me interrupt their flow for the day. We hit it off immediately and vowed to keep in touch. Our tea time visits turned into picnics in various Seattle parks, then visits to their Home School co op, she and the kids came to my house, and so on.  Our age difference didn’t matter. We had found community.

Writing is lonely work. Writing in community, though, can make it easier.

Hatching a Dream

On one of those Seattle Saturday picnics, K and I hatched a dream of having a small Christian Writer’s Retreat here in the Pacific Northwest. Every conference or workshop or writing retreat we found for bloggers was somewhere else (usually across the country) and cost a bucket full of money.

What if we facilitated a Writer’s Retreat ourselves? Well, what if? It turns out she had been having the same dream.

In 2015 we held our first writer’s retreat, an intimate gathering centered around the theme of ‘Dwell’–in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. The following year, the theme was ‘Abide.’ The work we did writing poetry, playing with words and singing was life-changing for all of us—not the least of which were the Attendees.  (You can read about our 2015 retreat here and 2016 here.)

After Abide happened those who came had a deep desire to stay in touch—some of the Retreatants were from as far away as Ohio, Colorado and Virginia. This is why God made the internet.  I took that little spark, turned it into a plan and Glory Writers was born.

Glory Writers is a little community on Facebook (less than 40 of us) who share inspiration, encouragement, questions or information each week. There are opportunities to talk about our work, whether a blog post or a poem or a paragraph and let the rest of the group read along. Some of us share our works in progress, art journaling, art shows or writing books. We have also been known to talk about socks. (But you’d have to visit Glory Writers to find out more about that, so consider yourself invited. Look for Glory Writers on Facebook. The group says ‘closed’ but all you have to do is knock on the door.)

The Miracle Grows

As a result of my little jump into the internet five years ago, then reaching out to a stranger, pursuing the shared passion of leading writer’s retreats, starting a writer’s group online, well, here’s what God has done through connecting, encouraging and communicating:

One of the folks who came across the country to our Writer’s Retreat last year is my beautiful  (now) in real life friend Denise. She is originally from Jamaica and currently lives in Virginia, by way of Kansas. You can’t get farther away from Jamaica than Kansas.

During a ‘happenstance’ conversation one day in our Glory Writer’s group, a new member from South Africa of all places, Aliyah, connected with Denise and found a kindred connection, too. A mini-community was born half way around the world.

Since that time Denise has done two podcast interviews with Aliyah and I have to tell you, hearing each of their lilting accents is reason alone to take time to listen. (Their first interview across the airwaves was ‘Culture and the Christian Writer–so good!) Denise posted this on our Glory Writers page the other day: I don’t think I could have done that interview a year ago. Interacting with GW has done much to help me grow in some of my perspectives and in confidence; not always comfy but necessary, (and that’s not tiny, btw.)

That’s enough ‘bread’ for me right there to feed my soul. It began because I was looking for community and connection in my writing journey. Then I risked reaching out to a complete stranger, connecting the dots of the worldwide web, and God reached into my life in miraculous ways.

Where Have You Found Community?

Donald Miller says that we are all wired for connection and relationships with one another and with God.  You know that, don’t you?

There are a number of wonderful communities on the web, groups gathered around a shared interest, who encourage and inspire each other, with this constant reminder–you are not alone. These are some of my favorites:

  • For moms, there is the website Kindred Mom ‘Flourishing in Motherhood’
  • For poetry lovers, there’s Tweetspeak Poetry ‘the best in poetry and poetic things’
  • There’s the Consilium Blog hosted by Diane Bailey ‘A community of purpose and grace for wise women’
  • And a cheerleader community for faith writers if there ever was one–Hope*Writers.

So tell me, where have you found community–in real life or on the web?

I would love to hear. 

Writer’s Break

I’ve been awash in words

of late, missing out on the

wind waving through steel

branches, blue and white

sky. Eyes too crowded to

take note of the weather

which goes on without me,

whether I watch it or not.

A glance through the dining

room glass speaks loudly

in all caps.

I am listening.

“There is no earth-changing

work worth writing that

can compare to the lines written

in the night sky on an early

March evening.”

Memory safely deposited for

another day, I bank on the Holy

Spirit’s call to tug at my downward

eyes next time I am consumed

with my own importance.

I will myself to remember–look up.

~:~:~:~:~

I’ve been soaking myself in poet/writer/editor John D. Blase’s poems in “The Jubilee”, a collection recently released for his 50th ‘jubilee’ birthday. Each piece packs a wallop in the words; if you enjoy poetry, may I suggest you run, click or drive to get yourself a copy? 

Why Rear View Mirrors are Better Than Windshields

“The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,

Shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”

Proverbs 4:18

When I began this year, God gave me a word–“adjust.” Last year I spent time ‘abiding’, year before that it was ‘dwell’ (very similar) and the year before that, my word was ‘fit’–how does what I’m doing in my walk with Jesus fit with what He says?

When I heard the Holy Spirit say “adjust,” I had the sense that I’d be moving in a particular direction–writing a book this year–but as I was moving God would have to make some course corrections.

About the same time, our pastor’s New Year’s message was from the book of Nehemiah about the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem. The rebuilding task was overwhelming, but Nehemiah was undeterred. As a result of that word, “start small, start now” became my mantra. I couldn’t make overnight changes in any of the areas I wanted to see growth or movement–my health, my writing, my spiritual walk–none of it. But I could see change over time.

At the end of each day, I document what little steps have been taken in those areas on my “foursquare.” Some days I write one or two things down, some days it’s blank. The areas of growth have changed over time as well, now one of the square says “heart & soul”, one says “body”, one says, “writing” and one says, “spirit.” It’s not a journal so much as it’s a recorder.

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Little by little, there’s progress.

~*~*~*~*

I’ve also been documenting the progress of the perennial flowerbed out in our yard—one photo a month since January, on the 20th day of the month.

I had the idea because, come June, no one would ever believe that the explosion of greenery and color that is my flowerbed was once an empty spot of soggy, blank dirt. I would like to encourage myself along the way that one, something beautiful WILL grow out of that unsightly rectangle and two, it will take some time.

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This first photo makes it glaringly clear just what a ‘winter view’ is in my Seattle suburb—with no foliage on shrubs and trees, you can see miles away. Of course, the shades of gray, brown and silver bark in front of me leave me with an impatient ache. They’re hard on the eyes; I long for them to bloom.

But I need to wait a good six months.

The next month, February, I chose a different angle, illustrating the size of the bed, and giving one the impression with my rake propped against the bird feeder, that I was actually working out in the mud. Smile. There are a few suggestions of greenery against the dirt, but they are only suggestions, an ounce of earth being displaced by life.

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You’ll notice the Yellowtwig Dogwood shows up nicely against the monochrome background of the greenbelt. There is hope in the color of those bare branches, a bit of golden against the sky when we’re desperate for something to keep us going.

A few days ago I took Month Number Three’s photo—March.

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Can you see the gradual growth, the mini fireworks sprouting from the dirt? When I stand back and look from this perspective I can see a difference from last month’s photo-something is happening! Look at all the yellow–forsythia! And, if you were able to get up close, you’d see new leaves curling out in the asters and clematis at the base of that dried up piece of driftwood by the gazebo bird feeder.

You have to look closely, though.

*~*~*~*

I am always learning lessons from my garden—long, slow lessons about life.

Right now I’m preoccupied with writing a book. I told you about that last week and God’s gentle (not) way of getting my attention in the process so I could readjust my expectations.

I am reminded again that anything difficult, beautiful or creative requires three things—work, attention and time.

I cannot expect to be finished with the process unless I put in the time and attend to God’s words to me along the way. And I need to remember that although I am bounded by the constraints of the rising and setting of the sun each day, God is not. He sees the end from the beginning all at once. He knows where we’ll be….maybe we need to pay attention to the getting there rather than the being there.

Maybe you’re working through something like that now—a challenge or promise or project that is taking a frustratingly much longer amount of time to bring any progress.

May I encourage you? Rather than looking at the emptiness outside your window every day (figuratively speaking) check once a week or once a month or once a quarter and ask God, “How are things going now? How about now?” Or, “God, please give me patience for this process.”

You may find when you look back at the end that whatever was preoccupying your thoughts or worrying you went more quickly than expected. And some day you’ll look out your kitchen window at the vines and shoots and branches spilling all over the back patch of dirt and wonder, “Wow, how did those flowers come up?”

A lot of work, paying attention, and giving things time. God’s time.

~*~*~*~

For what are you waiting on God? Share in the comments.

 

“Writing a Book is Easy” (said no one. ever.)

When I set out from home last week, Sunday to be exact, I’d been crowing to all who would listen, “I’m going away for a week to write the first draft of my book.” As if…..as if that can be done. But God is so good–we just don’t know what we don’t know. Whether it’s, “Hey, let’s paint the living room this weekend,” “Honey, let’s take that hike. It’s totally easy.” “Wow, I think I’ll go back to school/get a job now that my children are older,” and other idealistic statements.

Or maybe that’s just me.

stained glass, GrunewaldThis week away at the lovely Grunewald Guild in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, has been eye-opening, to say the least. (The bridge photo in the header was taken here at Grunewald last Fall).

Here are seven things I’ve learned I’m learning:

  1. Life and Jesus will get in the way (in a good way).
  2. You planned to write a rough draft of your book but you’re the rough draft
  3. Never write in the same room you’re sleeping in. A table along one wall does not a study make
  4. You will have to recalibrate your expectations several times using not GPS, but Jesus PS.
  5. Sometimes being productive means lots of prayers going up rather than print on the page.
  6. Trust the process. Give it time. God’s not in a hurry. The book idea was His anyway—all you have to do is give Him your pen.
  7. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not God.