Go Tell It on the Mountain

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

“Go, tell it on the mountain

Over the hills and everywhere

Go, tell it on the mountain

That Jesus Christ is born!” —John W. Work, Jr. (1907)

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

During a calming and reflective Christmas Eve service, a peace washes over me. I am in awe of the warmth and joy of being with family and friends who have known me for a long time. I think about how awesome it is that God sent His only Son to Earth. While He could’ve been safe in Heaven, God knew a life with pain and hard tasks would come against Jesus, but it would be worth it in the end. A relationship with us is worth all of that. A relationship with just me is worth all of that. A relationship with just you is worth all of that.

I’m jolted back into reality with the final hymn as we leave, ‘Go tell it on the mountain...’ While I can rest in the peace of God’s presence, the reality is that we are called out of that. We are called out of our homes, away from the warm fires, away from the gifts, and even away from the food to tell it from the mountain top! Jesus, the Christ, is born!

Click here to listen.

Prayer: God, you do it again and again. You put yourself in our path to know us and to be known by us. This Christmas, help us not to be content with our rest, but to share that gift with others. Help us not to be afraid to wish other’s a ‘Merry Christmas’ and to share the joy of this season. Thank you for this season of joy! Amen.

—Deborah Holcombe

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

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Monday, December 10, 2018

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime,

A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth The cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound

The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent

The hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn

The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head; "There is no peace on earth," I said; "For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men." —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807–1882

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “ Lamentations 3: 22-23

The poem and it’s musical renderings convey the struggle for humanity in the face of the horrors of war. Peaceful cries are drowned out by canon fire. At the nadir of despair, fresh hope is found in faith. This progression from apparent joy down to hellish collapse roughly parallels my journey of faith from a false sense of knowledge to hopelessness in a daily suffering without relent. Then, I found a church, found new truth and found my way home to deeper understanding.

This progression from ignorant happiness to the depths of doubt reminds me of Old Testament trials, God’s testing of man’s beliefs. The New Testament words of our Lord, as portrayed by His disciples, show the same redemption after doubt. As Jesus bids farewell to his human followers, He is alone with his doubts and fears. Then, just as in the last two stanzas of Bells, faith is restored as the sun begins to rise after a miserable lonely night. Hope is born in witness of the Living God who never sleeps.

Click here to listen.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for Jesus. In His holy name, Amen.

—Al Taylor

I wander as I wander

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Friday, December 7, 2018

I wonder as I wander out under the sky, How Jesus the Savior did come for to die. For poor on'ry people like you and like I... I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall, With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all. But high from God's heaven a star's light did fall, And the promise of ages it then did recall.

—Annie Morgan 1933

And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them con- cerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. Luke 2:16-18 (KJV)

In 1963, thirty years after this Christmas carol was written by an Appalachian evangelist, I was put in charge of a youth-led Christmas Eve service and selected, “I wander as I wander,” to follow the reading of the scripture above.

The sound of this piece as rendered by clear first soprano voice while those shepherds processed up our church aisle filled me with awe. Just glorious. It became one of my very favorite carols that night.

But a few years passed before the impact of that second line hit me - How Jesus the Savior did come for to die. Hearing it, I always wonder if I can hold the enormity of the lenten end in mind during this expectantly joyful season of beginning.

This carol is my reminder.

Click to listen here.

Prayer - Heavenly Father, please illuminate our wondering and guide our wandering this Advent season. Amen

—Linda Emerick

Mary did you know?

 “Madonna of the dispossessed” by Mary C Farrenkopf

“Madonna of the dispossessed” by Mary C Farrenkopf

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?

Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?

This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?

Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect lamb?

That sleeping child you're holding is the great I am

Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? —Mark Lowry

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1a

Whenever I hear this song, tears spring to my eyes. Can you imagine the immediate reaction of a single, adolescent girl being told that she is pregnant, and that she is carrying the savior of the world? In today’s world, that means lots of counseling, possible termination of the pregnancy and a very questionable reaction from her family. In her day? I doubt anyone can truly appreciate the terror she must have experienced. And Joseph, what about his reaction?

There is no explaining who he chooses to carry out his wishes. God has all kinds of gifts for us, some presented as outright blessings, others hidden in challenges and hurtful losses. Our attitudes determine how we deal with and understand these life events. When facing a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, one can succumb to despair or can depend on our Lord’s faith in us and find a way to turn it around to a crowning achievement.

No matter what the challenge or the blessing, we can only hope to face them and appreciate them with the strength Mary was able to manifest. We all need to strive to make God proud of us in our daily lives, through our thoughts and our actions.

Click here to listen.

Prayer: Lord, please keep our eyes open and give us the strength and perceptions to see the gifts you have provided. Let us have the courage to overcome and grow in your love through the challenges, large and small, that you send our way. Let us know that we all have the power to make the world a much better place through our faith in your ultimate sacrifice. Amen.

—Andree Tyagi

Lo, how a rose e’er blooming

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming, From tender stem hath sprung. Of Jesse's lineage coming,

As men of old have sung;

It came, a flow'ret bright,

Amid the cold of winter,

When half spent was the night.” —Anonymous, 15th Century

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” Isaiah 11:1

As a musician, “Lo, How a Rose,” is always so satisfying to play or sing. It’s all about the chords, really. I’ve likely heard hundreds of versions by now, and yet it occurred to me: all of them keep the harmonization more or less the same—the harmonization from 1609! There is something about certain carols that just feel sacred; some of them feel old, as if they were sung by the angels themselves. This carol encapsulates the timelessness of good music, but also the timelessness of a good God. I remember reading the book of Isaiah as an adult and realizing that it was written way before the birth of Jesus. This knowledge made hope spring up in me and I remember thinking: “Maybe it was true...”. Suddenly the whole Bible seemed to glow with Jesus. This carol reminds me of the way our faith transcends time and place, from Jesse to Jesus, even to this moment here, as we sing again of His coming.

Click here to listen.

Prayer: God of all times and all places, bless us as we remember your Son’s birth again. Make this Christ- mas different; help us to more truly understand all that Isaiah foretold. Help it become real to us, like a bright flower blossoming in the winter of our hearts. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

—Merideth Hite Estevez

In the Bleak Midwinter

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

What can I give him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; Yet what I can I give him: give my heart.”

—Christiana Rossetti

“He did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?” Romans 8:32

“In the Bleak Midwinter” means Christmas to me. I grew up in upstate NY where Christmas day often was white and cold and rather bleak. Gone were the leaves of summer, the crops in the field, and the rushing waters of the Susquehanna River. In their places was a monotone landscape waiting for the warmth of spring and the hope of new life. Verse four especially hits home. When I was a child, I loved opening my gifts, the favorite of which was one from a friend of my grandparents who gave each of us siblings a gift. She always seemed to choose special things for each of us, even though we saw her only a couple times a year. She was generous even without being present for the day. After the gifts were opened and we moved on to eat Christmas dinner with extended family, the little gift remained in my thoughts. They were small, unexpected, and lasting. Isn’t that how Jesus came? A baby. Tiny. A gift to the shepherds watching their flocks by night. Unexpected. We don’t have to be wealthy with brightly colored gifts piled under the tree and large post-Christmas bills to celebrate Christmas. Listen to Jesus’ words and give him your heart and time. This doesn’t cost money but promises a never-ending gift for the rest of time.

Click here to listen.

Prayer: Lord God, we give you thanks and praise for the little gifts we receive daily. Help us to see each as special and worth sharing with others. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

—Diane Olin White

Don’t forget to check out our specially curated Lumina Arts @ Grace Advent Playlist with each day’s selection and bonus tracks. Sign up here to receive this devotional daily in your inbox.


The Holly and the Ivy

“The holly and the ivy,

When they are both full grown,

Of all the trees that are in the wood, The holly bears the crown.

The rising of the sun

And the running of the deer,

The playing of the merry organ, Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a berry,

As red as any blood,

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ For to do us sinners good...

The holly bears a prickle,

As sharp as any thorn...”

—Traditional British Carol, 19th Century

“Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him...and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head...then they led him away to crucify him.” (Matthew 27; adapted from verses 27-31)

It seems strange to begin a the season of Advent with a passage at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, dealing with Jesus’ crucifixion, but this harkens back to at least the 4th Century. In Europe, where this carol originates, the holly played an important symbolic and practical purpose even before Christianity—in the dead of winter, the evergreen reminded people of the good times to come—spring—and its colorful berries hold through the winter, showing vitality. As pagans became Christians, they took meaningful symbols like the holly and saw them through the lens of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The holly’s berries came to remind them of the blood shed by Jesus, to save them from the “winter of sin” and get them through to the “spring of resurrection.” The holly’s pointy leaves lent its name, “Christ’s Thorn,” referring to the crown of thorns placed on Jesus. Early Christians viewed Christmas through the lens of the cross, the mystery of Emmanuel—God with us—born at Christmas, born to die, so that sinners might live, redeemed as the saints of God. At Christmas, we see the gentle child, who is also prophet, priest and king. And the world would never be the same. This carol connects this story in a sweet manner, rich with deep and ancient meaning—the mystery of a God made flesh.

Click here to listen on Spotify.

Prayer: God of holly, ivy and the whole world, this Christmas, help me to welcome the Christ Child into my heart, that I may reflect in wonder on the mystery of Christmas, and the joy of my salvation and hope for new life, through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.

—Rev Edwin Estevez

(Don’t forget to check out our specially curated Lumina Arts @ Grace Advent Playlist with each day’s selection and bonus tracks. Sign up here to receive this devotional daily in your inbox.)

Hurry up and wait

Sing we now of Christmas

Advent is a time of waiting. In the mania of all that the Christmas season has become, it seems impossible to make time for anything, much less to practice this waiting for Jesus’ birth. This advent Grace Church UMC and Lumina Arts Incubator have created a special interactive devotional to help us make space and time for the spiritual practices of prayer, scripture study, and general quiet time with God during the most wonderful (i.e. hectic) time of the year.  

I’ve written about it a lot— through Lumina Arts Incubator, a ministry of Grace Church, I have spent time working with artists from all different walks of life, who identify all over the spiritual-religious spectrum. What I love most about this work is watching people connect with their creativity, and exploring together how that intersects with spirituality. We hold weekly small group workshops around Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” that posits God as an artist and, poignantly, that God loves artists. This devotional brings together beloved carols with Scripture, a celebration of how artists call us closer to Christ through poetry and music, and is written by the faith community of Grace Church, including our Artist’s Way groups.

Starting on tomorrow, the first day of Advent, I will be sharing a post each day. I encourage you to join me and our community, as we find time each day to spend in quiet solitude. Each entry will include a carol and scripture excerpt for each day, followed by the short devotional. Click the “listen here” link to listen to a specially curated recording of each carol on spotify. You can follow the Lumina Arts @ Grace Playlist on Spotify here for bonus music.

Following the listening session, close with a prayer, either the one printed at the bottom of each day’s entry or a prayer of your own.

As the little-known Wexford Carol says: “Good people all this Christmas time/consider well and bear in mind/what our good God for us has done/in sending His beloved son.” It is my prayer that this devotional will help us all do that, to create space for the tiny child, born again in our hearts, here to save the world. What have we been waiting for? 

 

 

Thanks

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Listen

with the night falling we are saying thank you

we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings

we are running out of the glass rooms

with our mouths full of food to look at the sky

and say thank you

we are standing by the water thanking it

standing by the windows looking out

in our directions


back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging

after funerals we are saying thank you

after the news of the dead

whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you


over telephones we are saying thank you

in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators

remembering wars and the police at the door

and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you

in the banks we are saying thank you

in the faces of the officials and the rich

and of all who will never change

we go on saying thank you thank you


with the animals dying around us

our lost feelings we are saying thank you

with the forests falling faster than the minutes

of our lives we are saying thank you

with the words going out like cells of a brain

with the cities growing over us

we are saying thank you faster and faster

with nobody listening we are saying thank you

we are saying thank you and waving

dark though it is

 

W. S. Merwin, 1927

#joynotfear

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“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7

No one told me being a mother meant spending so much time thinking about death.  I remember my own mother telling me she had developed an irrational fear of flying once she had kids. She flew for years as a young person—a carefree jet-setter—and then she had my sister, and flying was suddenly her greatest fear. As a kid I used to think this was silly. Our family took a lot of long car rides because of it. Now I understand completely. Although my own maternal preoccupation with death manifests itself in other ways.

Scary thoughts” are a common symptom of post-partum depression, I recently learned. In my mom’s group, many have shared that they have them, to varying degrees. I do not think of harming myself or Eva, but I do have fearful flashes of bad things happening. It’s just a few steps above worrying. I have flashes of her falling off the bed or a car jumping the curb, images of going into her room after a long nap to find she’d stopped breathing. I usually greet these thoughts with (per my therapist)— “Hello there, I see you, scary thought. Go away. We are safe.” And then I quickly say a prayer. I pray to God to protect her.

I know people who’s babies have stopped breathing, who have been in terrible accidents in front of their eyes, parents who likely prayed that same prayer. My father used to say, “The greatest tragedy is watching a parent bury their child.”

Not as scary, but still terrible, are the thoughts of my own death. I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of thinking how long the milk stash in the freezer would last if I didn’t come home. I’ve thought through the details of who would help Edwin take care of Eva (aka how soon could my mother-in-law get there.) I do not have thoughts of taking my own life, but do find myself contemplating the reality that it could be taken from me at any moment.

These thoughts make me shudder. I haven’t felt they were serious enough to seek medical attention, beyond therapy, which I enjoy doing anyway. They don’t keep me from living my life normally. Honestly, I just figured they were par for the course, when you love someone so much. It does feel good to write about them.

Yet, today I have officially decided to let these thoughts make me grateful instead of fearful.

Truth is, these thoughts have taught me an important lesson: there are a limited number of days we get together, Eva, Edwin and I. Every time the sun goes down, another one of those days is gone. I do not want to spend those days worried and fearful.

Making the most out of every moment is not easy. Sometimes the days are long and the nights even longer. Sometimes it feels like an unbearable weight on my chest, having someone be so dependent on me. And, let’s be honest, the chances of something at least a little scary happening are pretty great. Children fall, no matter how closely you hover. And eventually I will have to leave them. (God-willing that is a very long time from now and it’s me and Edwin who go first. Lord, hear my prayer.)

I’m so grateful that my baby was one of the ones that got to live in the first place, that we have all we will every need and then some. I am thankful for this day, which has been a very full day of mothering. This attitude of gratitude does not mean everything is always sunshine and rainbows, but it centers on the fact that this day is one of the days we got to spend together, and that makes it good.

I will not let fear steal my joy. I will not let fear steal my joy. I will not let fear steal my joy.

Add this to the list of things Eva has taught me.

If you don’t read that verse at the top carefully it sounds like Paul is saying, “Don’t worry, just pray and everything will work out fine.” But I’m reading it with more nuance these days, as a mother. We present our requests to God, and with those requests we give thanks for whatever response God provides, before God provides it. And man, is that seriously hard to do.

But what else can we do? Stay off planes? Lock up our children so they will never be hurt? Lock up our hearts so they’ll never be broken? 

What stops us from seeing God as trustworthy, I believe, is that our prayers are not answered when or how we want. And, trust me, I do not know any more than you do why there is so much suffering in this life. (I plan to ask God that as soon as I get an interview.) But I do know what I find compelling about the God of the Bible— that that God knows suffering, that God knows what it’s like to lose a son, that God promises to never leave us. I want to believe these promises, to fully trust God to work it all out for good. I want to give up all my anxiety and take joy in all the blessings, every moment that I’ve been given, now until my final day.  

This peace that Paul speaks of at the end of the verse, I thank God it will “guard our hearts.” Loving that fiercely, that joyfully, with such abandon... I’m going to need a helmet.  

Wander where I wander

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Today we are traveling—one of my favorite things to do. I wasn’t planning on writing a post, and then I started feeling that familiar pull, that urge to reflect and then click “share.” So, I did want to send something small, a postcard from the road. Don’t worry, I am not driving.

This ritual of blogging on Fridays does me so much good—it feels cleansing and therapeutic to write, and yet, funnily enough, it feels less like satisfying a longing and more like opening a wound. And how can opening a wound feel good? It occurred me today that being heard and known, feeling things deeply—not alone but in community—that’s what writing blogs and playing music do for me. 

One of my favorite poems came to mind. (For those longtime readers, you may remember I originally shared it here.)

The “longed for beauty” this poem tells of is at the heart of what I want to write about, of what I try to call to in my music. Music is the gateway to our deepest memory, to the healer of our wounds, a siren-call to the eternal.

Music

By Anne Porter

When I was a child
I once sat sobbing on the floor
Beside my mother's piano
As she played and sang
For there was in her singing
A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold

And when I was asked
Why I was crying
I had no words for it
I only shook my head
And went on crying

Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country

I've never understood
Why this is so

But there's an ancient legend
From the other side of the world
That gives away the secret
Of this mysterious sorrow

For centuries on centuries
We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest

And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country

We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams

And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.

"Music" by Anne Porter from Living Things: Collected Poems. © Steerforth Press, 2006

Hello, darkness, my old friend

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You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend. (Psalm 88:18)

They are tearing down the building across the street from the church. I’ve never really noticed this structure, that is, before I started seeing it’s insides from the outside. Living and working in the city does this to you. You can be surrounded by things you never see until you can’t not see them. The second floor room in this picture, with the paper towel dispenser by the sink, I find it particularly heartbreaking for some reason. I’m not sure why—maybe it’s because all the news lately, the feeling that everything seems to be falling to pieces before our eyes. This building seems like a victim of violence, as we witness this ripping apart of a space that someone once inhabited. Doorways that people hovered in as they waited for an answer to a question, walls on which hung things that were beautiful or meaningful, stairwells where people could sneak out to lunch early. (I think it was an office building.) Of course, I’ve never stepped foot inside—I have no idea what kind of people inhabited it or what shape it was in to garner the demolition or what new thing is planned for that lot—but somehow watching it be torn apart, brick-by-brick, feels painful right now. 

When construction sites start to make you feel emotional, it might be time to pray.

It occurred to me, as I was reflecting on this demolition project: how we build things up and tear them down, how capable we are at leaving marks on this planet, on each other, and how God might feel about that. In this world of disposablity and constant change, I wonder: is it too late to take care of this place, of each other? With so much lost, so much broken, how do we do that?

Somehow newness became synonomous with hope in our culture. We’ve all experienced the feeling of unwrapping a new phone, for example. Are you ever slow to take off the plastic film protecting the screen? Do you save the perfectly sized box it came in, even though it has served its purpose? You know you are going to have to unpackage it and get to using it, regardless of your fears of screens cracking and permanent scratches you’ll soon leave on it. And yet, what gives you solace if you do drop it or lose it or damage it beyond repair? There are more and better phones, to be had...for a low monthly fee of ____.  

I imagine God with the shiny new earth spinning in the cosmos, protective film just removed, not a single leaf out of place. I believe that God knows that handing it over to us means its demise. Slow and subtle at first, but faster and faster (it seems these days) God’s beautiful creation is ripped apart—there are carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, white supremacists shooting at synagogues, towers tumbling to the ground. But God gave us this planet anyway; God gave us each other. We seek meaning in office spaces and on the internet, in churches, mosques and temples, and we manage to sometimes get along well enough to plant gardens and build cities. Sometimes we don’t and innocent people die. We are ripped open. It feels irreparable, permanent, scarring. 

I re-read Psalm 88 this week, because I remembered it was one of those lament Psalms that can help in times like these. Do you ever dread the sweetness of the Bible in moments of suffering? When you’re in pain, the verses like “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1) or “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” (Psalm 23:4), can feel sacchrarine-sweet and empty. It can leave one asking really hard questions: “So, if this is true, where were you, God?” Or “Why would you let that happen?” Even the lament Psalms always seem to be turning hopeful by their end, sometimes before I’m even ready. 

But here’s what I remembered this week: Psalm 88 does not finish with hope. The last verse is at the top of this post: “You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend.” Mic drop. This I can stomach. The fact that this Psalm is in The Bible—a Psalm full of quite colorful language of complaint and anger directed at God, and placed along with all the hopeful ones—this tells me that God can handle our stuff in these moments. We don’t have to censor our prayers. We can cry out in questions, frustrations, doubts, anger—God can handle it.  

There’s no way we can repair all that is broken. There is not a low monthly fee we can pay for a new planet or a way to bring all those who have died back. But, in these times, I find it consoling that we have a God who weeps with us and doesn’t smite the honest Psalmist. The Prophet Isaiah said, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) In my faith tradition, Jesus is referred to as the “Man of Sorrows” and to know that he was sad and full of grief, and at the very same time, full of grace, truth, and mirth—that’s one of the biggest reasons I choose to follow Him. He’s real. He does care, enough to cry and enough to die (even when it is we who have killed him). He is as disappointed as we are at the condition of things down here. 

When we are ready for hope, it is waiting for us. (Spoiler alert: “Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5) Maybe it would be more palpable if we really understood it for what it was. Maybe when we read of God “making all things new” it will be less like opening a new iPhone and more like watching a building be razed to its foundations, and rebuilt across the street. It will be a newness found through healing, and healing can be arduous work. Our faith makes space for the important and impossible process of grieving, saying goodbye, and letting go. It makes space for piles of ruble and empty chairs at family dinners. We can ask God to hurry to make things new while we, in the same breath, cry with sobs deeper than words about the loss of all the old. That’s where I am right now, how about you?

For Eva

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“...write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 7:3

My dearest Eva, 

I’m not even sure if the internet will be a thing when you’re old enough to read this. Regardless of whether or not you actually ever do read these words, I feel having them outside of my heart and onto this screen helps me to hold them close, to remember them myself. 

There are lots of things I want for you, but recently I found myself dancing at a wedding of two very joyful people, and I was missing you while you were home with Abuelita. I got to thinking about some of the things I want for you as you grow up, some things I’d wish I’d known myself, and so I thought I should write them down.  

1. I want you to remember growing up in a home that was full of music and dancing.

2. I want you to love your body. 

3. I want you to expect the best from people and be compassionate when others fail you. 

4. If you’re called to marriage, I want you to choose someone who makes you laugh. 

5. I want you to know that we are sorry that we’ve damaged this beautiful planet.

6. I want you to know you were named after someone people call “the first woman,” someone created in the image of God. Her story is a complex and beautiful one, just like yours will be.

7. I want you to know you were also named after another strong woman—someone brave enough to leave everything she knew to follow her heart (and her mother-in-law) into unchartered territory, because she believed it to be the right thing to do. You were named after an immigrant—like your papa’s family—Ruth was an outsider, and a woman from whom Jesus decends. 

8. Speaking of immigrants, your own family came to this country in search of a better life. They worked hard, open their doors and hearts to others in need, and never stopped believing in all that America had to offer and what they could offer America.  I want you to be brave enough to take risks, but humble enough to see that it’s not just about you.

9. I want you to remember your parents loving each other, in good and in bad times, like Deedee and Baba.

10. I want you to study music for many reasons, but most of all so you can feel what it’s like to play great music with friends when you’re feeling low. 

11. The world will tell you that the goal is to be happy, but I want you to be more than happy—to choose to have joy.  

12. I want you to know Jesus, but not exactly the Jesus I know, the Jesus that you find, finding you. 

13. I want you to fall in love deeply when you’re old enough, but never lose yourself in vying for attention from others. 

14. I want you to find your validation and sense of self-worth in who God says you are, instead of who others say you are.

15. When people say you can do anything or have it all, I want you to know that they are wrong. Choosing one path means leaving another and that’s ok.

16. Similarly, I want you to know that your choices matter, and yet this life is not ultimate.

16. Lastly...for now...I want you to know something I’m still trying to understand here at age 34— something that is becoming more real to me everyday— true religion is not about following rules, but following one law—the Law of Love. Loving God, loving yourself, and loving others.  

Since I became your mama, God is teaching me something deep and wide about this Law. I long to love you well, to leave you each day sensing, feeling, knowing God’s love and mine.  These things are written on the tablet of my heart and now here I am (on another kind of tablet) writing them on the internet.