darkness came over the whole land

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. 
“We have no king but Caesar!”
He did not open his mouth. See him there, bruised and beaten. A man of suffering, familiar with pain. We esteemed him not.
“Hail, king of the Jews! 
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

I have a Lenten meditation this Good Friday over at Jennifer Luitwieler's site today. Click here to read the whole thing.


purity of heart is to will one thing (sex & the evangelical over/under-sell)

'True Love Waits <3' photo (c) 2013, Starla E. Rose - license:

Ann Voskamp wrote a compelling response to the verdict in Steubenville, framed as a letter to her sons. It offered prophetic affirmation of men and women, and I was grateful she turned her grace words to light dark corners of both church and culture (even if the language of "real manhood" makes me bristle). 

But I keep turning over this line in my mind:

Unless a man looks to Jesus, a man doesn't know how to treat a woman.

Yes, Jesus provided an exemplary (and radical) model of honoring women, but plenty of men love women well without looking to Jesus for the blueprint. Christians can be just as selfish and messed up as the next guy. It's our hope that sets us apart more than anything else; God knows it's not the Church's record with women!

God is Love. A man who treats women with dignity and respect demonstrates the love of God, even unwittingly. A person who serves others sacrificially loves like Jesus, whether or not she follows him herself. Love is of God. There is no love (or goodness or truth) apart from God, but Christians hold no monopoly on those or any virtues. God is so much bigger than our imagination, doctrine, and constructs. 

Wendell Berry said, “There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.” God is present in his creation and our relationships. His love is at work within and around all of us, whether we've eyes to see or not. Every good and perfect gift is from above


To talk adequately about Steubenville is to talk about consent, but Christian sin-and-purity teachings have failed us in this realm. We pit Premarital Sex against Married Sex, rarely acknowledging where Sex You Didn't Choose falls on that matrix. If my body is a temple, can I be desecrated, left to ruin? (No!) If we are not our own, can we still speak frankly about honoring the bodily autonomy of others? (YES.)

Looking back at the boys I dated before Jim, the only one who initiated a conversation about physical boundaries was not a Christian, yet he treated me with more respect than some of his faith-filled peers. Christians are comfortable speaking the language of No, but we need to learn the language of Yes, recognizing that boundaries aren't firstly about proof texts (or gender roles!) but loving our neighbors as ourselves and not treating people like objects. (The ways the Church teaches modesty can also be every bit as objectifying as our sex-soaked culture, reducing women and men to body parts.)

Can we learn to speak the language of consent, grace, sacrament, and the inherent worth of every person as easily as we speak of sin? If the Church truly wants to esteem women like Jesus does, we have a long road ahead of us.


"Sexual purity" is not, as far as I can tell, a scriptural concept at all, and I vote we strike it from the record. Purity stands, but that biblical virtue is related far more closely to what's in our hearts than our pants. Yes, Christians are called to be set apart and not conformed to the world, but not like this. Jesus fulfilled the exacting requirements for ritual purity long ago, and evangelical obsession with "sexual purity" reads more like Levitical law than the way of Jesus.

Can we look at the synonyms for impurity for a sec? Go ahead and add "sexual" as a qualifier to any of these, and try not to wince:

contamination, corruption, defilement, dirt, filth, grime, pestilence, poisoning, pollution, scum, stain, taint, uncleanness

No wonder Christians have so many hang-ups about sex and bodies! Careless language and terrible metaphors lead us astray and into some pretty abysmal theological territory. We've entangled sex with the language of dirt and shame to the point that it's extraordinarily difficult to decipher a Christian narrative about healthy, holy sexuality. We tread in heretical gnostic territory when we fail to distinguish attraction from lust and physical response from sin. The language of sexual purity heaps shame not only on lustful pursuits but on any expression of natural desire, and this is not God's design.

We are embodied people. We are sexual people (even when we are celibate). Sexuality isn't something that lays dormant until ya put a ring on it. It's part of what it means to be human, created by God. The Incarnate Emmanuel refutes any claim that human bodies are anything but good.

Christians can love God and the bible and still do this better than we are right now. If the Church truly believes that sex is holy and our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made, then let's re-frame our conversations about both with care, forgoing lazy metaphors, bad theology, and excuses about how "We didn't mean it like that.

Words matter. They hold the power to create life (kinda like sex), so lets revere them both, honoring God and one another with our bodies and our words. Like Ann reminds us, let's look to Jesus, treating each other with reverence, purity, and great love.


saving my life {& a pass-along book club?}

It's been a while since I've counted, and since I'm feeling a bit grumpy about the interminable cold and cooped-up-ness we got going here, I figured it was time to dust of the old list.

an ongoing record of God's goodness, #375-399

turning 33
breakfast in bed, reminiscing about our time in Napa last spring
a birthday afternoon at the spa (look OUT)
homemade carrot cake, cuz my man don't play

tapping trees
maple syrup and pancakes
sugar shack field trip with this guy

lenten soup suppers and
Friday fish fries

daffodils prophesying life

fiction exploring a love of music and the sacred ordinary
Dylan reading up a storm

a real and true double date with real and true friends
new local wine bar in middle-of-nowhere-PA
kind friends to watch the babes

Call The Midwife (streaming free at pbs)
discovering Scandal, a show (sans teenagers and zombies) that Jim and I both enjoy

i sent my copy of Beyond The Impossible to Emily Maynard, and now i'm thinking how great a big cross-country book club would be. you mark up a book and mail it to the next person on this list. i participated in one like this years ago and loved it. who else would be down?

seeing a unicorn: my sparkling clean kitchen
singing along at the top of my lungs as I work
tiny feet getting their dance on

Where are you finding joy? Tell me something good. 

linking up with my girl HopefulLeigh's What I'm Into round-up


speaking life, disarming love

Spring lies waiting. It’s twenty-odd degrees, but daffodils arise unflappable. If they can believe in spite of the evidence, so can we.

You’re best friends. I speak it like prophesy. The words-make-flesh and dwell among us.


I have a guest post over at Tanya Marlow's blog for her God and Suffering series. It's about parenting when it's hard. (It's always sort of hard, isn't it--or is that just me?) Come by and read, and stay for Tanya's own words, so seasoned with grace and wisdom.


not less than everything

This born and bred Protestant found Not Less Than Everything: Catholic Writers on Heroes of Conscience to be a timely and thoroughly engaging anthology. Some profiles were familiar (Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, Mary Magdalene, Ignatius of Loyola) but many were not, and the essays whet my curiosity for more.

The thread that unites these historical and contemporary figures is a faith expression that put them at odds with their communities and quite often, Church authority. These diverse portraits of dissent, struggle, courage, and deep faithfulness offer much to challenge and encourage the catholic Church universal. My copy is well marked, and I'm still reflecting on the essays days later, which range from historical profiles to intimate tributes to beloved mentors. In the collection, church history bleeds into narrative, personal devotion, politics, current headlines, social action, parish life, and more than a few dark nights of the soul for the clergy, academics, artists, activists, and faithful profiled within.

"The establishment is always loyal to the very institutionalism of the institution in question. The dissenter is always most loyal  instead to what the institution itself claims to be about" (61). This is the heart of the book and its stories of faith practiced in ways that were perceived as unorthodox (and perhaps even heretical) but were born of deep desire to serve both God and Church wholeheartedly.

One of the most fascinating essays for me was about Bartolome de Las Casas, a priest who served as chaplain during the Spanish conquest of Cuba. The gruesome horrors he witnessed led him to give up his land and slaves, becoming a vocal opponent of the Conquest and critic of his Church that sanctioned it.

Bartolome's belief in human dignity, religious freedom, and evangelism without force were remarkable for his time. The way he opposed unjust political and religious authority, identifying Jesus with the suffering and persecuted resembled twentieth century liberation theology. In fact, Gustavo Gutierrez wrote a book about de Las Casas, attributing much of his own thinking to the sixteenth century friar who said, "I leave in the Indies Jesus Christ, our God, scourged and afflicted and beaten and crucified not once, but thousands of times."

The book also paints a compelling portrait of contemporary Catholics wrestling with Old World theology, current abuse scandals, and a faith at once ancient and timeless. It provides a glimpse into what drives some Catholics away while others remain as solidly committed as ever to the Church and faith, even while finding themselves at odds with ecclesiastical authority.

Not Less Than Everything is a worthy read for history buffs, theology nerds, progressive (and other) Catholics, Protestants wanting to learn more about Catholicism, those disenchanted with Church wondering "Can I stay?", justice advocates, authority-buckers, rule-breakers, and any Christian seeking to be encouraged by the communion of sometimes unlikely saints.

"When first confronted, this artist's work will look irreverent to those called to maintenance and preservation. But the artist, eyes open, hand extended, knee bent, is striving for perfect fidelity" (115).

Review copy provide by TLC Book Tours. Opinions mine. Affiliate links. As you were, soldier.


without walls

Grieve not the Spirit, sister;
your brothers' blood cries out from the ground.
Be not afraid to claim your kin, for
Christ is not ashamed to call us his and
he our peace. For once, we are
not strangers but citizen heirs of
one household of God.

One Lord
One faith, to
One hope are we called

One baptism
One Body, many gifts.
One Giver
One work
One Table
One Church

The house of God built not of
mortared walls but bone and flesh:
hearts beating, breaking and bound
up in mine. Belonging, the Spirit dwells 
in our midst. Wither or bloom, 

we are keeper and kindred;
bearing burdens and fruit,
wear love well.


i am the 47%

“Are you in school?” she probed, stirring her tea as I set a slice of coconut cream pie before her. She’d sent the first piece back, running me ragged with demands I hustled to meet with a smile.

“No, I graduated a few years back.”

She asked from where, and I told her, but her eyes flashed a smirk. “You might not want to tell them you work here. They might revoke your diploma.”

She left a tip that better matched her icy slight than my service–or her pearls.


I served tables and steamed lattes for two years before it became apparent that there might not be A Real Job for me in this town at all. Should we move up our vague baby plans a bit? For what were we waiting anyway, me to brew another thousand pots of coffee?

My sister was visiting. She grabbed glasses from the cupboard, and Jim poured the Guinness.

“None for me.”

“Just a little?” I shook my head, not feeling their festive mood. “But it’s Saint Patrick’s Day!”

“I might be pregnant, OKAY?” I barked, louder than intended. Their jaws dropped in tandem and eyes bugged cartoon-wide. A few beats of shocked silence passed, and they burst wide smiles and congratulatory hugs.

I felt sick, but not with the pregnancy. How were we going to afford this baby? Jim’s ministry job provided housing and a most modest salary. Being broke without kids was one thing; you’re supposed to be poor in your twenties, right? It’s part of the lore of growing up and coming into your own.

But feeding my kids government cheese? That never was part of the plan.


The next day the stick read positive, and the housing authority called about a job I’d applied for months before. If that was proof of God’s sense of humor, it felt like the joke was on me.

I accepted a job with the homeless assistance program, encountering the kind of poverty and housing insecurity that generally flies under the radar. I documented dire straits in pay stubs and eviction notices. The work was good, and I liked the people, but my heart hurt for how hard they labored and what little it guaranteed.

My due date imminent, I couldn’t imagine coming back to work in six short weeks. Staying on part-time wasn’t an option, and we didn’t have anyone to help with childcare, so I gave my notice. We’d figure it out somehow.


As it turned out, government cheese is Helluva Good. We ate it for four and half years, and I really did see it as part of God’s provision for our family. Uncle Sam’s chick peas floated us through the lean seasons, which lasted from autumn until tax time.

Sitting on the other side of the desk to turn over our pay stubs was humbling, like nearly every check-out experience at the grocery store.


I learned to shop the out-of-town supermarket, to not dress Too Nice, and to divide my groceries meticulously, with a babe in the sling and a toddler in the cart.

First check & transaction: milk, juice

Second check & transaction: cereal, peanut butter, cheese, bread

Third/(Fourth) check & transaction(s): produce. Make it match $6 (or less); any overage requires a fourth transaction independent of the final one.

Final transaction: our own groceries. More fruits and veggies, turkey for sandwiches, cheese or possibly fish from deli clearance, pasta, almonds [too much?], ice cream [it's on sale], frozen pizza [I have a coupon]. I smile apologetically at the customers behind me, wondering if they’re frustrated at the length of this process, or is their disdain toward My Kind in general?


I missed my reauthorization last fall and discovered our larder a little fuller. Maybe we could weather this lean season without WIC’s cushion.

My education and growing up were solidly middle class, and in many ways, we’re just wayfarers on this strange (mis)adventure in living beneath the poverty line. We could, most likely, get better paying jobs. Our paychecks are modest, but our housing is secure. Our families could (and have) aided us in a pinch, another decidedly middle class privilege. Downward mobility and ministry were our own choice, and I won’t pretend to exist in the same boat as my former clients, even if our tax returns appear similar.

I’m not so bold. I didn’t write this until I could put it in the past tense. I worried what you’d think, that our finances, spending habits, and private decisions would be up for public review. (That’s how this works, right?)

How much do you think her boots cost?

She has an Instagram account, you know.

If she doesn’t like being “low-income,” she could always, I dunno, WORK.

We’re several months out from receiving WIC benefits and doing okay. More than okay: our needs are met and some wants, too, like signing up our little ones for tumbling at the Y.

Despite all that, we’re still the 47%, those people (like teachers at Christian schools, disabled veterans, and your grandma, for goodness sake) who are basically The Worst for earning wages below the threshold of respectability.

Folks like me. Pleased to make your acquaintance.

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