When You Need Answers, Look Up

“Grace pouring forth like a fountain flowing
Our hearts open wide to sing your praise.
And our sound becomes sweet
with Your anthems ringing
Praise to the Name
of the Lord.”
Fernando Ortega “Sing Allelu,” “The Odes Project,” 2008

Fernando Ortega is one of the most worshipful song leaders I’ve ever heard; his praise music and original hymns are favorites because of the beautiful melodies and powerful words. Hearing him sing live a few years ago fed this singer’s heart; his presence at the piano stirred and inspired. (You may have heard him sing, “Just Give Me Jesus” as a tribute for Ruth Bell Graham.)

After a recent road trip where “The Odes” CD accompanied me, I had “Sing Allelu” coursing through my spirit, with one word in particular: “anthem.”
Curious about its meaning, I found out (no surprise to many of you) it is from the Greek, ‘antiphon’–sounding in answer, a voice in return, a hymn of praise.’ All of creation was made to ‘answer back’ to the Creator; why? I wondered.

     I am desperate during these busy summer days to stitch together any minutes I can to take just.slow.down.

     Slow down, if not with an actual Sabbath break, but with a Sabbath heart. A heart that leans towards God, asking questions like,

  • “Why do daylilies shoot skyward?bbd77-dsci0003
    • “Why do tree limbs head up and out?”                                                                                                                   e24ae-dsci0538                               
  • “How do clouds stay stacked up-up-up as they scud across the blue?”                                                                              e83f5-31_3

Why indeed?  They are ‘answering back’ to their Creator.
      May we ever do the same.

(this is a significantly edited post from four Julys ago).

My Favorite Things {Vol 6}

Mt. Rainier, Washington

‘My Favorite Things’–a sporadic gathering of posts you may have missed because they’re buried in The Middle Pages. You know what I mean, eight pages into the ‘A’ Section of the paper you find a story you think belongs on the Front Page.  “Why is that buried there? I almost missed it!”   Here are few thoughtful gleanings from the virtual pages of the interwebs. 
1) Lessons on Christian Vocation from Candace Payne “The Chewbacca Mom” (you saw her video, right?) on why Obedience, Diligence and Being Fit for God’s Call comes before offering the gifts God gives us. Nine minutes of Inspiration. (Candace leads worship at Red Oak Fellowship in Texas).

2) Why the World Needs Fairy Tales–Doug McKelvey at The Rabbit Room

Remembering What We Mean

3) A Perspective Adjustment on the Presidential Race–Rebecca Reynolds at Thistle and Toad

“After the Worst Political News You’ve Heard all Year”

4) How Bono, of U2 fame and author of “40”, was asked to wait….for Isaiah

Bono & Eugene Peterson–THE PSALMS  
Bono’s a cappela version of Psalm 23 is worth the 22 minutes of the video–get the beverage of your choice and enjoy!

5) A reminder that our souls need whitespace–from Ashley Hales
“But here and now, we are only left with hunger. We are left with noise. We are left with so much gaping space between the “already” here of the Kingdom of God and the “not yet” ache for its consummation.”
Tasting Beauty in the Suburbs


Glory Writer Alyssa Santos–painting the beauty of poppies unfurling
Have You Ever Seen a Poppy Pop?

Sparkle Shoes, Craters & Rainbows–Miracles Come in Threes

My Sunday shoes, Kevin the teenager’s 
     Some Sunday mornings you show up at church and God decides to surprise you. Like the other morning when the teenagers from youth group—ages 15 to 19—took the stage and lead our worship time.  They had some big shoes to fill; but we were not disappointed.
Their spirits were eager and sincere; voices filled with joy and energy.  Even when you couldn’t hear them because they kept stepping away from the mikes. 
Our fearless point man, a gentleman who only a few summers ago was outside mowing our lawn, commanded the platform with his confidence and abandon to God’s presence through the music.
The same young man who has battled a serious stutter all his life. 

In a daring act of bravery, in my humble opinion, he decided to not let that stop him from doing what he loved–singing and playing guitar.

After the second song, he slid his phone from his back pocket (and lest we think he was texting his girlfriend) proceeded to read an encouraging word from a devotional that had moved him.
I don’t remember the content of the words, only that they were full of power and truth.
I kept thinking, ‘Hey, he’s not stuttering anymore… That’s a bit of a small miracle.”


I have never been to Africa.
I have been to Yosemite.

       My sister in law is on safari in Africa, the culmination of a lifelong dream many years in the making. She is in the sixth decade of her life, so this is no small accomplishment. This morning my niece informed me she communicated with her mom just yesterday via Viber, some new voice app that allows you to talk to anyone anywhere in the world.

Even if you’re traversing the Ngorongoro Crater (the largest unflooded caldera in the world) located inTanzania Africa, whilst snapping photos of elephants and giraffes.
Does that not strike you as a miracle? Not the largest unflooded caldera part—2,000 feet deep and 100 square miles across (clearly a God-can-only-do-that-miracle) but that a person in Seattle can talk to someone literally on the other side of the world….on the telephone??
Of course the word ‘miracle’ is thrown around a lot these days. Discussions of everything from the power of aromatherapy to bathroom cleaners to headache pills.  All are evidence of something completely out of this world amazing. Miraculous.

But I think being 9,280 miles from home and being able to speak to your daughter on the phone is a miracle.


     This last weekend I met a man who was 104 years old. He wore a straw hat and sang in a silly voice on cue. “I used to do voice overs in Hollywood,” he told us.  We thought he was joking about Paramount Pictures and all, but I Googled his name and sure enough, there he was on a YouTube.
Well, that’s a small miracle–living to be almost 105….
Once a month we get to share at a Seattle-area nursing home.  My husband prepares a small message, I lead the worship—my favorites, the old hymns and choruses—and a small band of friends come with us to play piano, pass out songbooks or pray with the old folks.
It is a bit of an effort on a Sabbath Sunday, especially when we’ve just spent a few hours in worship and fellowship already. Then we drive 40 minutes or so, set up chairs, sing, pray, minister and talk some more, hop in the car and drive home. It’s a long day but always so very worth it.
I love leading the singing—no fancy sound system, no guitars, just myself and the old folks and our friend at the piano.  But it is glorious.  There’s something powerful about the stripped down lyrics and music in that kind of setting.  You can’t hide behind the strums of a beautiful guitar or the gift of harmonizing voices, no amplification to help you sound a little better.  It’s just a roomful of varied folks—wheelchair bound, hard of hearing, paralyzed or otherwise impaired—singing our hearts out.

I always end up leaving more blessed than when I came. Especially when there are rainbows.
Before we started our service, the Director was looking out the second story plate glass windows and yelled, “Look!” We turned wheelchairs around, everyone oohed and aahhed. I’m glad I snapped a picture.

Rainbows are not an uncommon occurrence here in the Northwest—all that rain.
But no matter how many times we see one, it always stops us in our tracks.

How could that arc of color, perfectly formed, bend through the sky just so in exactly the same colors every time?
Where does it go when the sun goes away?
Why can’t we find the end of it (and that pot of gold)?
How does God DO that?
Three small miracles, ones you could see, hear and feel.  The God-made kind, right in front of me.

What kind of miracles will you see today?

Linking with Kelly for #Small Wonder Link Up
And Lyli for TPT

Silent Nights, Holy Times

The whirrrrring, geeeeeezing sound of not one, but two remote control cars is masked outside my door as I steal away to this quiet space in the study.  Quiet is a relative term. It’s more like the muffled, not-completely-deafening roar of a jumbo jet revving its engines while one watches on the other side of the airport glass.

There’s a Disney movie blaring in the other room (even though I requested we turn off the surround sound) and distant conversations in the kitchen about lunchmeat and sourdough and ‘where are the chips!?’

Son and daughter-in-law arrived Christmas night with the 5 grandchildren and it has been Family Time All the Time in the Collins household. Each one of the grandchildren is a delight and a joy, unique and interesting, full of life. But I’m not, ahem, used to so much intense input around the clock. Color me grateful for a few stolen moments here to collect my thoughts.

As their visit comes to a close and the troops gather to leave, an effort not unlike mounting Hannibal’s campaign to traverse the Alps, I think it’s best to get out of the way.

I will miss them: there have been moments of precious quiet in front of the fire, Grandpa reading stories at bedtime, hilarious laughter at the Children’s Museum, Christmas polkas with the Aunt and Uncle and an especially peaceful, holy night on Christmas Eve.

As my son is fond of repeating, not “it’s all good,” but “It’s all God.”

It’s all God–the gentle, warm times around a fire, the snuggling in a blanket with a story, the worship together on Christmas Sunday, the uproarious ness of children’s games and laughter. The wonder of watching birds outside the window and the tears in a heart-to-heart conversation during the stolen moments in a quiet car.

Yes, He is Emmanuel, God with us. The King who calls us in the middle of the Where We Are Now to the Where We Really Belong.

That is the pull I feel–longing to listen to God’s voice, to soak in His word, to wash in moments of worship and journal my thoughts. It’s the kingdom planted in my soul, that tension between the what is and what is not…. I’ve had every intention each morning of my family’s visit to steal away for some quiet time with Jesus, but it was not to be.

Instead, I find in these in-between times of Christmas and New Years there are still Holy Times, nonetheless. He is truly God Everywhere–at the Children’s Museum, by the fire, on the trampoline–hooray!–at the window with the birds. He is God with us.

Happy (almost) New Year, my friends. May you see Him everywhere you are.

Writer’s Retreat Recap–Yes, He Abides

my friend Laura S. and I leading worship

Worship–A Pantoum
Inside, two friends bend hearts towards God
stops and starts, voices raised, a daring duo
strums and strings bring songs alive
while the Holy Spirit sings His song over you

Stops and starts, voices raised, a daring duo
carrying water for thirsty souls
while the Holy Spirit sings His song through you
deep channels, delivering life via verse and tone

Carrying water for thirsty souls
this, the joy of completing his song
channeling life via verse and voice and tone
inside, two friends bend hearts toward God.
My heart is so full I feel it will spill a torrent of words and you might all drown for the reading. 

I still can’t quite believe what God did at our little Writer’s Retreat in Leavenworth last weekend.  It was everything my friend Kimberlee and I prayed and planned for and more.
(more details on the ‘Writer’s Retreat’ tab at the top of the page.)

I have long sensed God was going to use this time as a catalyst, the beginning of a seed from His heart and mine to see women writers of faith encouraged and connected, uplifted in their communicating.

This resonated with others as well–the desire to not be well-known, but to be known well–by our Father and by each other.  The passion for God’s presence and a desire to hear His voice and be healed in the hearing.

Leading worship was a particular joy as I felt many times the power in the room, God’s light touch on my shoulder and tears on my face as He showed up.  We sounded like Heaven, I’m sure.

I shared revelations about what God did using Writing as a Spiritual Practice introducing the women to the idea of sitting with 2 or 3 questions and listening to what God might say. (prompted by my reading of ‘God in the Yard’.) The uncovering sparked many embers, lighting fires of discovery all around.

Kimberlee delighted us with playing with words and poetry as we each dove in to write a Pantoum–a poem form that is actually easy to use (look! I wrote a pantoum!) once you get the hang of it. We wrote our “Glory be to God’s” after Gerard Manley Hopkins and wished we had enough French berets for all.
Hearing the responses as women de-mystified the poetry process would have made my friend Laura Barkat swoon. 
‘Hey, look, I wrote a poem!’  Priceless.

Shhhh…..the poets are working in the Library

Our retreat site in the Cascade Mountains of Washington lent itself well to listening and looking. The Library where we met was filled with Heaven from the moment we stepped inside. The camaraderie under the apple trees, the early morning conversations on the front porch, all were strands woven together in a beautiful piece of God’s own cloth.

Fall colors were everywhere

early morning walk, Laura S.

When we shared in our Communion circle on Sunday morning, the fruit of each person’s words fed my soul:

“I’m leaving here feeling expanded.”
“The healing is real.”
“Thank you for teaching me about poetry.”
I feel refreshed, rejuvenated. Loved the reflection time.”
I learned to abide in Jesus, not in my pain.
“I love opportunities like this to be together with people who all wanted to find God in the space.”
“Writing pantoums was like Legos with words.”
“I enjoyed this, less because of the writing and more because of the people, wrestling through faith together, living through God’s calling in our life.”

As I said, my heart is full.  Here’s to Abiding.
I longed for this little Retreat to be start to more in real life encounters, particularly here in the Pacific Northwest, opportunities to eat and talk and maybe sing. Chances to share heart songs and stories amidst tea and cookies and kids.  
(Maybe there’ll be a summer picnic, who knows?)
We have a Facebook page where you can join us. 
We’re starting small and building slow, reaching out and reaching up, 
continuing to bring Him glory. 
The photos from ‘Light and Loveliness’ are Ms. Emily Allen, one of our Retreatants.
Thank you Emily!