Friday, December 31, 2021

At the Threshold of the Year

 A Reflection on the Year 2021

Sunset at home, 12/31/2021

Unchanging, everlasting God—

El Olam—

Here I kneel

(In spirit though unable in body)

At the threshold between

This year and the next.

Lord, my heart still stings,

Raw from the many griefs of this hard year,

The dreams dashed,

The hopes deferred,

The tears wept,

The trials endured,

The promises broken,

The trust betrayed,

The upheaval wreaking havoc

And revealing where my true trust lies,

The beloved ones lost,

The beloved ones being lost.

(Not on my shoulders,

But in Your hands.)


I praise You, Lord,

That hope in You is never deferred.

Your promises always come true,

In every jot and tittle,

No word falling to the ground unfulfilled.

You gave Isaac to Abraham against all odds,

At the exact time You had said.

You brought forth Israel’s deliverer Moses

In the very year promised to

The patriarch generations and centuries before

The heel-snatching twin and

The prime minister of Egypt

Were even twinkles in their fathers’ eyes.

You sent Your people into Babylonian exile,

Then opened the path for their return,

According to the seventy years

Predicted by the prophet Jeremiah

And claimed in prayer by the prophet Daniel.

Messiah was cut off—

Hung on a cross,

Pierced with nails and spear,

Buried in a rich man’s tomb—

In the precise way

At the precise kairos hour

You foretold through Your faithful

Isaiah, David, and Daniel.

He, Messiah, rose on the third day,

Just as He promised His disciples

And according to the sign of Jonah.

You poured out Your Spirit on Your children

At Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks,

An outpouring Joel had prophesied

And Jesus had promised.


You place Your bow in the clouds today,

Again and again the rainbow,

Noah’s sign in the skies,

That storm and flood may

Rage and thunder, but never again

Will they prove the end of us

And of this beautiful, terrible planet we love so.

Heaven and earth will flee away in Your appointed time,

But not through the agency of

Himalayan-drowning, Rocky-gouging floods.

Rescue will again come,

But not through an ark of wood to carry

Families of men and animals over the waves.

Rescue will come and has come,

Through the Lamb Jesus slain on a cross of wood,

To bear the sin of those who trust Him

And give to them His righteousness,

And the priceless pearl of

Adoption as sons and daughters of God.


We have Your Word

(And You cannot lie),

Your covenant oath,

Your history of impossible promises fulfilled;

We have the daily signs of

Morning and evening, assuring us

Of Your unfailing steadfast love,

And Your interminable, limitless mercies.

Great is Your faithfulness!


Even in all the wounds and brokenness

This year has wrought, like

Floodwaters carving up our own stony hearts,

Forbid it, Lord, that I should fail

To recognize Your gracious consolations.

You were in the desolations,

Though I perceived You not,

And You were in the consolations,

The sweet blessings that strengthened weak hands

And made firm feeble knees.

Thank You, Promise Keeper, Almighty God,

For Your presence in all our tribulations,

For Your Word in every need,

For every drop of anguish that amplifies our need of You;

For the lives spared,

For the service You enabled,

For the hours of hymns sung through masks to a dying woman,

For the yarn crafted into comfort, love, and help;

For unearthing happy memories,

For times spent in Your glorious creation,

For open doors of opportunities;

For reunion with loved ones after months of separation,

For sisters biological and spiritual,

For Your servants newly consecrated with laying on of hands

And prayer,

For technology bringing distant teaching, worship, and celebration

To my kitchen and my comfortable chair;

For unexpected, miniscule health progress,

For clear cancer scans,

For milestone celebrations;

For the miracle of monarch metamorphosis

Observed in all its stages,

Your profuse, offhand wonder

Passing unnoticed myriad times a day until

The serendipity of scrutiny from

A vantage point of inches.

“Lord of all, to Thee we raise

This our joyful hymn of praise.”


These happy eucharisteos also

We lay upon Your altar;

This weight of blessing,

As much as the weight of sorrow,

We roll into Your strong, pierced hands.

For the glad things and the sad things,

We love You, trust You, praise You.

(Not on my shoulders,

But in Your hands.)

Bandage our wounds

And revive our hearts with

Hope and joy from You for the year ahead.

You have gone before us

And will meet us there,

For Jesus’ sake.





Saturday, December 25, 2021

Fairy-Tale Gospel Reading

Blessed Christmas to you, dear Crumbles! Recently I recorded a reading of a piece written for a church Christmas brunch in 2007. This is my best attempt at capturing the narrative of the whole Bible, a love story at its heart, in 15 minutes or less in relatively non-preachy language. May the Lord bless it to your encouragement and use.

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us" (1 John 4:7–12, ESV).

"This soul of ours hath love, and cannot but love some fair one;
and O, what a fair One,
what an only One,
what an excellent, lovely, ravishing One is
~Samuel Rutherford, The Loveliness of Christ, Kindle location 348).

Monday, December 20, 2021

A Recipe for Joy {A Poem}

My grandmother's well-used Joy of Cooking (The throwback contact-paper cover is her doing. :) )

Choosing joy—

Is it not like choosing cake—

Simple shorthand for a complex action?


What then is my recipe for joy?

Preheat the soul to absolute surrender

To the loving will of God

Who spared not His Son for your salvation.

Blend the Word of God and prayer,

Prayer and the Word,

Until the one is indistinguishable

From the other.

Stir in gratitude:

For God’s past faithfulness,

For God’s present mercies,

For God’s promises sure to come.

Add a generous pour of the oil of the Spirit

Whose fruit is joy,

And blend until thoroughly incorporated.


Gently mix in a spoonful of bitter trials,

For they cause the soul to rise toward heaven.

(Take care not to substitute bitter resentment,

Despite the resemblance of containers,

For to do so proves ruinous.)

Add a pinch of the pure salt of holiness

Or the liquid salt of tears.


Stir in a splash of sweet spiritual song,

The overflow of the Lord’s work in the heart.

Fold in the priceless treasure of the fellowship of Christ.



Step outside;

Pay attention; be amazed

At whatever wondrous work of God

Lies just outside your window.

Thank someone.

Laugh out loud

With a friend.

Curve lips into a smile

In kindness to others

If not to oneself.

Make something good and beautiful and true:

A meal, a quilt,

A computer program,

A calculus equation,

A lesson plan,

A song, a garden,

A home.


Pour out your offering into each prepared day the Lord allots.

Bake in the warmth of God’s love

Under the heat of His gracious discipline.

When golden with reflected glory,

Share with a neighbor in need

While still hot.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Bent-Winged Peace

In the golden afternoon of the last week of summer, a flash of orange movement caught my eye as I toweled off from the day's hydrotherapy session. A monarch butterfly had perched on the bisque expanse of pool deck. Open, closed, open, closed, went its wings, slowly and rhythmically.

How odd, I thought. Why would it land there, so exposed to danger and even our dog, when blooming plants and its favored milkweed were only feet away? Slowly I stepped down and approached, trying with all my might not to spook my little friend.

From a few feet away, I could see something was not right about the wings. A little closer, and a little closer, and oh! Too close.

The butterfly tried to fly away from me but couldn't. Instead, she skittered across the deck into the pool. As she labored unsuccessfully to fly out, I looked around in a panic for something light enough and long enough to help. In the end, I grabbed the grabber I use to reach the pool thermometer. As gently as I could, I slid it into the water just underneath her and waited for her to climb on securely before I carefully pulled her out.

Now the defect was obvious. Her wings were bent like dog-eared pages. Of course the poor dear couldn't fly!

Hoping against hope that she had recently emerged from her chrysalis and her wings simply hadn't had time to expand and harden, I placed her on the milkweed where she would be safer and have nectar for strength. That evening, Amore fished her out of the pool again. And again the next morning. Her wings remained bent. Do butterflies have birth defects? Did something interfere with her eclosure?

We kept her as safe as we could for as long as we could, until we couldn't find her any longer. We groan with Creation in the knowledge that she likely became food for some larger creature, perhaps one of the murder of crows that haunt our block.

Earth has many sorrows, beloved, but you hardly need me to tell you so. Some are as light as a butterfly wing; some are as heavy as a granite boulder that could crush you if the Lord didn't hold it back.

Earth has many sorrows,

Many and variegated sorrows--

Lame butterflies, lame wives,

Fractured minds and bodies, relationships and promises,

Paychecks landing in purses with holes (or not coming at all),

Thorns and thistles frustrating our labors,

Churches wandering from Truth or disrupting Love with petty quarrels,

Prodigals remaining in the far country,

Disasters, disease, dissension, and despair:

Earth has many sorrows. Where is peace to be found in this groaning world, where not even butterflies escape the pain Adam and his sons and daughters have brought about?

Peace is the benediction resting on those who are not offended by Christ (Matt. 11:6; Luke 7:23). Peace is the beatitude for those who look about at all the brokenness in the world-- the lame who don't walk, the ill still unhealed, the wombs that do not bear, the tornadoes that don't change course, the thorns not removed, all the light and momentary afflictions that pave our path toward glory--

For those who look about at all these things,

Yet still confess, "He is good, and His love endures forever."

Peace is the dividend reaped from treasuring God's promises in our hearts:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:28–29, ESV).

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17, ESV).

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Peter 5:10, ESV). 

Peace derives from the trustworthy character of the person of the Triune God:

God who never lies; hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word... (Titus 1:2–3, ESV).


God who cannot lie;

So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul... (Hebrews 6:17–19, ESV).

God who keeps steadfast love in abundance. 

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6–7, ESV).

Peace leans its weight upon the power of God:

God who spun galaxies, oceans, butterflies, and birches into existence with the words of His mouth (Genesis 1-2);

God who commands wind and wave, whales and worms (Jonah);

God from whom no one can snatch His sheep (John 10:34-35);

God who raises the dead (1 Corinthians 15, all 4 gospels).

Peace fixes its gaze forward to the purposes of God:

Resurrection and reunion with the saints of all the ages (1 Thess. 4:13-18);

Recreation of a new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21-22);

Redemption of our bodies (Phil. 3:20-21; Romans 8:23-24).

Finally, peace abides in the presence of God who dwells in us and in whom we dwell, and who will be the crowning glory and light of the age of ages when all promises are consummated and all purposes fulfilled:

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me" (John 15:4, ESV).

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you (Isaiah 43:2, ESV).

fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10, ESV).


And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3–4, ESV).

We could not ultimately rescue or heal our bent-winged butterfly, or so many other people and circumstances, but we can have peace because of the promises, person, power, purpose, and most of all the presence of God. We can breathe in peace now, in the battered and broken, because of our sure and certain hope in a day when there will be no more butterflies with broken wings, wives with broken bodies, families with broken homes, or children with broken hearts.

Come, you disconsolate, where'er you languish;
come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot heal.

Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter, in mercy saying,
"Earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot cure."
~Thomas Moore

A different monarch butterfly: a foretaste of good things to come

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Advent Hope

O God of hope,
Your supply of hope is infinite and inexhaustible,
For You see the end from the beginning
And know how all our stories end.
You are the maker and fulfiller of promises,
And You know not one dot of an I or cross of a T
Will fall to the ground unrealized.

But we, O Lord, 
We are finite and timebound,
Fumbling in the dark, unfamiliar terrain of trials
For a lamp.

Our dust-encrusted lanterns of hope
Prove ineffectual against the tenebral gloom.
Fill us with fresh oil, Lord.
Trim our smoldering, smoking wicks.
Cleanse and polish our lamps.
Kindle hope afresh in us,
Not for us only,
But to light the lost world's path
Homeward into You.