Aug 1 2011

Living Good News

Mondays are for counting thanks to 1000 and beyond


One of my church’s missionaries, Carl, told a story about the healing impact of the Gospel that he has seen through his ministry in Asia. The projects that the mission is involved in hires people from the surrounding area. During training for the jobs, they discuss values found in scripture, such as forgiveness, service, and equality, which provide the foundation for the relief work.

After one of these training sessions that focused on God seeing all people as equal, a local man shared that he started to view his relationship with his wife in a new way. In his culture and tradition, his wife would prepare his meals each day, serve him, and then leave him to eat. After he was finished, she would eat whatever was left over.

The clash of the teaching on equality and his own practice disturbed him. One evening, when his wife came to serve him dinner, he invited her to stay and share the meal. He split the food into equal parts. It was the first meal they had ever shared together.

From that point on, their relationship was transformed.

Good news. God news. Life-changing news.

It doesn’t have to be something huge, just listening and seeing, and then being obedient to what the Spirit calls us to do. And I don’t think it’s about expending a ton of energy to do “the right thing” or “what we should,” but simply allowing ourselves to be troubled and then taking the next smallest step toward a new possibility.

A step, such as eating a meal in a new way.


Seeing through the eyes of gratitude today…

401. Carl’s work with Wycliffe in Asia and that the Spirit transforms lives and relationships.

402. Wind rustling in the trees


403. Sweet peas in bloom

404. The Anne of Green Gables stories…what a delight!


405. Bees on flowers

406. Sunshine!!

407. My mom’s recovering and healing

408. Madeleine L’Engle’s wonderful book on art and faith, Walking on Water.

409. Joy


410. A place of peace


411. A furry creature–what colors God has given her!


412. The Tierra Nueva mission team. What a great experience to work alongside them! (For more photos from the Bethany Presbyterian Mission Trip, go here.)

May 11 2011

Resurrecting Hope


The past couple of months, as the trees leafed out and the wildflower seedlings poked their tiny heads through the soil, I felt the chill of winter.

It could be that Seattle had it’s coldest, grayest April on record.

But as the joy of Easter seeps slowly in, I realize Lent just lasted a bit longer for me this year.

I planted my blue morning glory seeds over four weeks ago and kept checking for signs of life, even as I checked my own heart.

Hope had gone into hiding.

Is anything growing?

Will anything ever grow?

And if it does, what’s its purpose?

I wait in hope that the lifeless seeds will one day bloom. It’s seemed to take forever, just to get this far, and I can’t see the end.


This morning, asking my questions, I picked up a book by Richard Sterns, The Hole in Our Gospel. Sterns is the president of World Vision.

I  randomly opened it to an amazing story of seed planting.

Edward Kimball taught Sunday school in Boston and invested in the lives of boys and young men. One of these teens was particularly challenging, so Kimball visited him at his family’s shoe store. He spoke about the love of Christ (actually mumbled it nervously, not sure what to say), and surprisingly the young man committed his life to Christ then and there. This teen, Dwight L Moody, would ultimately share the gospel with over 100 million people during his life, as well as start inner city ministries and a college in Chicago.  In 1879, F.B. Meyer was influenced by Moody’s witness and became a minister, he in turn mentored J.W. Chapman, who ministered to professional baseball players. One of those players, Billy Sunday, became one of the most known evangelists of the early 20th century.  Sunday’s ministry of preaching led Mordecai Ham to follow Christ,  and Ham became an evangelist as well. Ham’s preaching and invitation to follow Christ was heard by a young teen, Billy Graham.

Richard Sterns writes: “Do you sometimes feel that you have nothing worthwhile to offer–that you are a nobody when it comes to doing great things for God? I wonder if Edward Kimball felt the same way. He never did anything spectacular or particularly newsworthy. He just showed up out of faithfulness to God, an hour or two each week, to teach the boys in his class. And yet Edward Kimball’s dedication to teaching Sunday school faithfully and caring about those boys changed the world.”


Our daily work of love is a seed. Loving one person near us cannot but unleash God’s love in some unique way into the world.

And that amazing transformative Love will sparkle and spiral and twirl as it touches the lives of countless others down into the future.

We may never know to where and to what just showing up and sharing God’s love will lead.

But knowing that God’s Word of Love created the universe and raised his Son from the grave, we can hope for a garden of abundance to spring green.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than those who watch for the morning,

more than those who watch for the morning.

–Psalm 130:5-6

May 7 2011

Friday Florilegium


A florilegium of quotes, some snippets of what I’ve been reading this week….

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run , that ye may obtain.”   –1 Cor 9:24 (from my hundred year old King James. Ah! The romance of an old bible!)

“When I meditate on the annunciation and try to find my place in it–for I am convinced that we all experience our own small annunciations–I wonder what I would do if I found an angel waiting in my kitchen as I burst through the door, already late in starting dinner. Or lounging in my study when I need to write a lecture for tomorrow morning. Or already sitting in the taxi when I am on my way to the airport. I would be tempted to say, ‘but you haven’t made and appointment. You should have called first. I ‘d love to oblige, but this just isn’t a good time. Maybe later…’ But annunciations cannot be scheduled in advance…The angel–whatever form the bearer of tumultuous tidings might take–rarely carries a lily and practically never appears at a convenient time or place. Like Mary, as I imagine her, we would be quite happy to continue in our decent ordinariness. And yet the greeting comes: Hail, O favored one. Make a place for him within you. Get ready for your tranquility to be shattered. put yourself aside, let your life be changed.”  –Margaret Guenther, The Practice of Prayer (one of the best books on prayer I’ve ever read!)

“What do you want your home to be? What does God want it to be? Waste no time wondering if you can do it. The question is simply, Will you? Your weakness is itself a potent claim on divine mercy.” –Elisabeth Elliot, The Shaping of a Christian Family

“Our true aim must not be to work much, and have prayer enough to keep the work right, but to pray much and then to work enough for the power and blessing obtained in prayer to find its way through us to [all people].–Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer

“I often think that God must have been looking for someone small enough and weak enough for Him to use and that He found me.”  –Hudson Taylor (It’s been over 20 years since I wrote my undergrad history thesis on missions in China, Hudson Taylor and Gladys Aylward. Their witness never fails to inspire me.)

“God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.” –Hudson Taylor

If you have quotes or verses that you’ve been reflecting on, please share them in the comments!

Friday Florilegium 1

Jan 24 2011

Defining Moments


They came through the doors, two or three at a time. Wrote name tags and found a place in the circle.


Thirty eight middle and high school students from three Seattle churches gathered for a Saturday of defining words, learning history,  and wrestling with issues.

Laughter from icebreaker games filled the fellowship hall–like guessing the names of famous people stuck to our backs and “shuffle your buns” (a new one that left me quite thankful to be photographing, rather than playing)…..


…turned  into serious discussion as students tackled writing definitions for five words:






institutional racism


Afterwards, we went to the Northwest African American Museum and then heard Rev Dr Samuel McKinney speak about his life and experiences–a close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the person who invited King to visit Seattle in 1961. We learned how King had to speak in a different location after the reserved venue cancelled at the last minute without reason. Students learned that much has changed, but so much remains to be done.


And at the end of the day I listened to the students share thoughts and questions and frustrations as they reflected on hard history that began before their birth, that continues to today. I marveled at their energy and  conviction, and hope filled me…these are the next generation. Bless their efforts, Lord.

Grateful for…

361. Museum Without Walls, which gives students and adults opportunities to hear from living witnesses to times such as the US civil rights movement, Japanese-American internment after WWII, and the Holocaust.  

362. Suzzanne, MWW Founder and Executive Director.

363. Rev McKinney and his willingness to share his story and memories with us.

364. The wonderful team who facilitated the day.

365. The students and youth leaders and churches.

366. Laughter

367. Sunshine

368. Glimpses of a community being formed on this, the first of three Saturday Multicultural Scholars’ events.

369. The happy-good tired at the end of a long, but amazing day.

370. That God, who so loves this world, is already working.


Jan 3 2011



Toward the end of the year, I start to reread my journals from past Decembers and Januaries–comparing what I was thinking and feeling then with life now.

It’s always humbling because I find I write the same things, struggle with the same questions, or learn the same lessons over and over, just in different situations.  After an hour or so of reading, I’m utterly tired of myself and imagine a big bonfire of burning journals.

This year was different. Well, I still got tired of the monologue, but rather than being saddened by the broken record of my journals, I was comforted that God sticks with me and keeps speaking, keeps forgiving, keeps showing possibilities in every moment. I’m starting to see my journals as a 25-year record of God’s faithfulness in the midst of my often melodramatic prose.

I also saw that there were certain resolutions that didn’t make it on the official lists, but were quiet and patiently relentless in the background. These were the ones that survived past January.

Two years ago, starting The Contemplative Cottage, was one of those resolutions that didn’t really feel like a resolution. Yet, if I were to list influential practices of the last two years, submitting to the blank page of the blog post is one of the most important.  The call to write, to reflect on contemplative living, to share gratitudes, knowing you are reading, has been a life-changing discipline. Receiving your comments and emails have spurred me on.


At the same time I started writing here, I started taking digital photos–ostensibly for the blog posts. I discovered a whole new world of light and color and way of seeing God’s creation and people, that still stuns me and fills me with awe.  Photography didn’t make it on my list of resolutions that year, but nonetheless, its impact has seeped into every corner of my life.

Photography made it into my prayer–“God, use this joy, please.”

Taking photos has become a way I worship God.  The surprises and joys keep coming.  This Lent, I’ve been invited to be Artist-in-Residence at St Paul’s Episcopal Church, taking photos in response to the Sunday lectionary texts and sharing them in worship. I cannot begin to describe the JOY and the wonderful-terrified-humbled feeling at being given this gift.

I’m also praying about how I might combine photography and short-term missions, a direction that could literally take me anywhere in the world. Joy. Wonderful-terror.

As I read my journals, I began to see a larger pattern in how I approached  life.  The main tasks, such as exams or dissertation writing, I lived in opposition to, so my resolutions were mostly about what I was going to do to take control and get things done.  But then there was  a whole world of un-resolutions, from which God’s cultivating hand brought fruit–joy and grace and LOVE.


While I needed to take some action, there was an indirectness about it all,

a certain hidden grace-full-ness.

Eugene Peterson talks about the relationship between work and grace.  Whatever task before us that God has placed in our lives can be a container for His grace. A concrete action, gift, task, or situation, can become a way to experience God’s grace operating in our lives and in the world.

The blog writing, the photography…I got out of the way and these became containers for grace. And God’s grace does amazing, joyful and transformative things when we let it.

What would it be like to live this way? What it would it mean to approach all of life like these quiet but relentlessly patient un-resolutions?


To get in on the action, but out of the way of God’s grace.

To no longer live in opposition to life,

write no more take-control-lists,

but bring it all in worship to the foot of the Throne,

and see what God does….

(to be continued!)


Today, I am thank-full:

God’s faithfulness through the years. And the un-resolution of 25 years ago to start journaling, so today I have a record of His faithfulness and patience.

God’s grace and all the containers He fills to overflowing.

A new way to think about the dissertation writing….as worship!

My camera, every single day.

My parents singing to me on New Year’s.

Young Jack singing to me O Come All Ye Faithful, two verses memorized!

The community of St Paul’s Episcopal and their faithful welcome.

Aug 10 2010

Mission Week, Day Two

Esperanza Mission Week

Where we are staying…


The building many of us are working on….


Esperanza’s view…


A trip to empty the prawn traps (a shark tore holes in three of the traps, so the catch was small).  The girls were comfortable holding prawns and crabs by the end of the trip…



Yummy sugar cookie…


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