Cemetery Grace

It feels healthy to me every once in awhile to sit in a cemetery, to let a cemetery sit with me. While that is undoubtedly morbid to many, it is part of my life and I find it a grace.

There is a gentle voice in the cemetery that rides the wind through the grass and speaks, “Brevity, brevity.” In that simple word it dares any soul that will hear to live fully, to fully live.

The pathetic and yet love packed bunches of plastic flowers scattered across the field seem to have eyes of their own that burrow into mine as their shadows fall on their stones. Every life will eventually lie in peace under a shadow of time, perhaps under the shadow of a plastic rose.

There are many people who are no longer with us, many, many, many, people whose lives are over. I am not one of them. Not today.

I rise with a conviction to live. Live aware of brevity. Live now.

My cemetery grace.

Sprinkled Surrender

They grew
And grew
And GREW
Until they could NOT GROW anymore
And then –
With their flowery heads and orange eyes
turned toward one another with a nod –
“It’s time.”
And the release began –
The letting go
The giving in
The freedom to be
And not reach anymore.
Decorating their earth with white
They sprinkled their surrender around
And let the scent of it float.
And that –
THE RELEASE –
Proved to be –
Their awaited glory.

Gray

Today the sky is gray.
Yesterday the sky was gray.
The day before that it was gray.
Last week the sky was gray.
Tomorrow the forecast is … gray.
Gray. Gray. Gray.

Meet my cloudy fog-filled mid-winter world.
Meet my cloudy fog-filled mid-winter demeanor.

I want to take a big stick and poke through the clouds today to find the sun. Or pull out our leaf blower, hold it high over my head and blow the clouds away. A cloud blower would be much more useful to me than a leaf blower anyway.

Maybe I will try.

Katie vs. the gray sky.
I need sun.

Where Apples May Lead

My friend brought me to an apple orchard. I picked a lot of apples. I picked way too many apples. I picked so many apples that my plastic bags sagged as I fought to put them on the counter. Check out.

For two weeks my apples sat. They sat because I could not find time to sit with them. The following weekend came and I remembered them, returned to them, pulled those sagging bags of apples out because I knew … some things are now or never.

I peeled so many apples my hands hurt. I put half of them in the crockpot overnight to make applesauce and the next morning they were burned. I put the other half in a pie shell with brown sugar and those came out perfect. How is it that sugar perfects things? Certain things.

Two bags of apples left.

Mitch and I walked the neighborhood and knocked on people’s doors to offer them apples. We ended up at the table of an elderly couple that lives around the corner. They talked for a long time. They talked about appropriate things and inappropriate things; things we wanted to lean into, things we wished we could lean out of. They unloaded their stories as if our knock on their door pulled a long-standing gag out of their mouths.

In time we stood in the kitchen of our new friends and caught the tears of hearts unlocked. The right visit with the right words at the right time. They took our apples.

Where apples may lead.

Lost on Purpose

I like when the paved road becomes a dirt road. I like it even more when the dirt road becomes a trail. My favorite is when the trail becomes a slim clearing and then … that slim clearing disappears.

… which to some is the end of the road…

BUT … to others it is just the beginning.

I like exposed ground beneath my feet; moist dirt, bumpy pebbles, protruding roots. I like the raw, untethered land, unbroken ground, unhappening potential.

Find me on the less-beaten trail.
Find me off the trail.
Find me creating my own trail –
and there walking – long.

Getting lost on purpose is under-rated.

After all, who wants to only ever go where others have gone before?

Ponder that.

There is a time to follow –
and there is a time to stop following –
and lead.

Shade

I woke up this morning out of a bazaar dream. Sunscreen. I had a dream that I put sunscreen on my face, turned around and looked into a mirror. My reflection in the mirror revealed excessive sunscreen; blobs of caulk-like white plastered around my face. I tried to rub it in, but that only made my face increasingly pale. “I didn’t even need sunscreen!” This clear thought shot through my brain and I woke up.

One foot in front of the other I crawled out of bed. Today is my first day off in a very long time. Two months ago I accepted a full time job, a very full time job. Demands and deliverables have been driving me fast, somehow graced by my own genuine excitement and sense of purpose in the role. Busy, nonetheless, very busy.

Four large trees tower over the roof of our house and I stare at their jagged branches. The leaves on them are full  – creating a canopy of shade on our deck. Shade.

The Lord watches over you. The Lord is the shade at your right hand.

The Word washes me and I hear Him, “You don’t need sunscreen, Katie. You need to respect the role of shade. Get into the shade. I am Your Shade.”

In that moment, I understand my dream:

My face – myself
Excessive sunscreen – my fear of getting burned, burned out
Mirror – a reflection of my fear
My thought – an invitation to trust God instead of self-protecting

Self-protection is a big deal. It limits my personal freedom. Trust in God to protect me in what He is calling me to is a bigger deal. It liberates my present.

Is it possible to be in full-time ministry and not burn out? I don’t mean the obvious crash, burn, and quit of external burnout. I mean the subtler, unnoticed, layers of internal burnout where people lose their personal sense of “life abundant” and “my cup overflows.”

I fear that.

The trees shake with the wind and the shade shifts.

I sense my invitation – “Don’t fear the increase, Katie, trust Me, make use of the shade.”

Its easy when people’s expectations are increasing, to start living in response to them, for them, because of them. In that space plaster me with sunscreen and even then I would probably do well to just hide. It is not safe. But … I believe there is a better way. Instead of self-protecting, I could up my ante on following Holy Spirit’s voice. Let Him be my protector; listen, respond.

When Holy Spirit says take a Sabbath – take it.
When Holy Spirit says turn off my phone – turn it off.
When Holy Spirit says walk away from a need – walk away.
When Holy Spirit says do something for myself – do it.

I think that becoming a better follower of Holy Spirit is how we can position ourselves to steward increase in a way that supports rather than threatens our personal needs. This requires a die-hard commitment to Him as the primary leader in our lives.

After all, who is really driving us? Is it Him?

It’s a brilliant hot day in my life and I plan to enjoy it.
But the dazzling favor of man, I refuse to work to maintain.

Sunscreen is not my solution.
The Shade is.

The Lord is the shade at my right hand. 

Green Again

For weeks this field has lived with its mouth wide open; gulping down mounds of snow that compiled during the blizzard. At last it soaks up the last layer of moisture and a full beard of green re-emerges.

Sometimes it takes time, but green always re-emerges.

The sunbeams dance off this plot of land to showcase its’ transition. It has become a field again, freshly liberated from the persona of being a stretch of winter on display.

Winter doesn’t last forever.

The soil is saturated. You can all but hear the buzz of new things racing to the surface. Sprouts will explode up out of the soil soon, and litter the land with new life.

Winter saturates the ground.

But the air is still cold. The sky will still swell at times with white flakes, the wet land will still become ice overnight. The ground presents itself ready, but the air needs more time.

Premature change ends in freezing.

The fading of winter is a process. But my heart is encouraged because the least I know is that something is changing. I am seeing green again. I have drunk to capacity of winter. The last layer of it is being soaked up.

Green again.

My Bible

I remember sitting outdoors with my bible as a young girl. My family was on vacation and I found a spot near the water to spend time with God. My bible was open to the book of James. It began to rain; sprinkle, drop, downpour. I looked down at the pages of my bible and made a decision; I would let the rain fall and crinkle the pages. This way my bible would always wear the marks of this day and I could always remember the special time I was having with God.

Years later that bible got dumped into a washing machine and came out obliterated. I cried. I loved that bible.

Later in life I had a different encounter with the bible. It was one where people were criticizing my life and others through flipping through the pages of this ancient book and saying “it’s not biblical.” The pounding of a religious fist came down to crush personal experiences with God in the name of the bible. I began to lose my love for the bible, even as I was falling more in love with Jesus.

A few years ago, I had a personal disappointment with the bible that worsened my existing distance from it. I was in a time of great need and had marked my bible cover to cover with promises of hope for something specific to happen. That hope was drowned in a tragedy. In my view, the bible told me that something would happen, and the exact opposite happened. For months I couldn’t read my bible without being met by a fierce feeling of betrayal.

I sat with a trusted spiritual leader one afternoon and confessed, “I love Jesus, but I don’t like the bible.” I told her how I questioned the bible’s origin, its validity and its relevance. “Most of all,” I expressed, “I despise when it is used to enslave people in the name of a liberating God.” She stared back at me knowing that I was leading people in a biblical setting. “You may want to sort this out, Katie.” I knew that and I tried. But the hard feelings towards my soft leather bible remained.

Through all this, I can remember seeing people who had worn their bibles thin through intense use and I felt embarrassed by my own. I didn’t want to open my ten-year-old bible in front of people for fear they would see that it still looked brand new. I wished I loved my bible, but in all honesty – I didn’t.

Just over a year ago, I was sitting in a bible class and the teacher felt impressed to stop his lecture and do some ministry. He spoke to my class, “If anyone has used the Word of God to hurt you instead of liberate you, I want to apologize to you on their behalf. That’s not what God gave the bible for.” The statement hurled into my spirit and I began to cry.

Okay. There it was.
The bible had hurt me.
… and people had hurt me with the bible.

How in the world do you heal from that?

Meet the Author.

The journey began. I decided to only read the bible in conjunction with a meeting with its’ Author. I’ve been falling in love with my bible  – ever since.

This past week I read through most of the New Testament in a few days. My eyes were sore from reading for so many hours, and I couldn’t get enough of it. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. The bible is unraveling to me as threads of gold; wisdom for life, art for application, story for inspiration. I can’t get enough of it.

Friends, my relationship to my bible is healing. It’s been a long time coming. I am finding it so strengthening. My life is different when I’m in the word. My nights are more peaceful, my days feel more aligned. Maybe someday I’ll have a worn out bible with marked up pages like some of the people I so admire.

In the meantime, I can at least say …

To those who have been hurt by the bible, bored by the bible, apathetic towards the bible, disappointed by the bible, and in all honesty – love Jesus but could care less about the bible …

I get it.
And … I can honestly say –

Your bible is worth picking up again.
It’s worth spending time in again.
It’s worth falling in love with – again.

The Word reveals the Author.
He is so worth knowing.