Friday, July 20, 2007

i know i promised, but...

i said i wouldn't subject you to my poetry, so forgive me going back on my word. i also suck at HTML, so just pretend that the dashes are tabs. :)

Mark 9:24 (for the Venables and Athan)

a bird by-
----tip of branch
----in tip of beak;
i search sky-
----ink in hand
----to write or speak

my son sleeps-
----of heart's pale beat;
my friends weep-
----spent eyes there.
----in need we seek

clouds roll through-
----sun and shade,
----so faith and fear;
seeking You
----words evade.
----be Healer near

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

backdoor to a celebration of marriage

my good friend Janae got married last month. my brother-in-law got married last weekend. several good friends and family members are facing tough times in marriage lately. my own marriage has been unspeakably sweet through our recent time of crisis and trial. i've had lots of occasion to reflect on marriage lately.

and on Sunday i heard it again - the Christian line on marriage. it includes things like "take a stand against divorce" and "divorce is not an option."

take a stand? what exactly does that mean? it sounds militant and strong. my marriage has been to the brink of divorce, and i'm not sure that valiant Christain soldiers boldly marching into such a tender, agonizing place in my life would have helped anything. in fact i'm quite sure it would have made it worse. i was, thankfully, surrounded by people who value my heart and Ryan's, as well as our marriage, and who gently laid down their busy lives and spent themselves in prayer on our behalf. they didn't stand up for the institution of marriage, exactly, but rather laid on their face for me and for us.

and now i'm faced with the decisions about how to best love others who are struggling in marriage. nothing about my part feels aggressive. it feels slow, unsure, and requiring me to surrender much. to lay down instead of stand strong. it begs the humility to remember my own struggles and weaknesses, past and current, and share them, if needed. it is prompted by the gratitude i feel toward people who loved us from broken to healing, not pride of having "arrived" (because we haven't) or being "right" (because i'm not sure it matters one way or the other whether i'm right or not).

divorce is an option. to just march around chanting that it isn't is a bit ostrich-like. i understand the intent, but i also don't think it's working (i won't bore you with the stats about divorce rates - you're watching them unfold around you just like me). but i know from experience that divorce is not the only option. rather than insist that people ignore the enemy of divorce, we can help them look that enemy dead in the eye and choose to stay married anyway. we keep treating marriage like a fragile, weak thing, and marriage is responding by becoming just that. but it's strong - able to acknowledge the temptation to give up and walk away without automatically giving in to it.

i don't mean that Christians have had a wrong idea. the good idea of protecting and upholding marriage needs a different method. a new approach.

and new words. i think our words describe our actions, but they also influence our actions (that sentence may spark a whole post). if marriage needs more compassion than crusade, our language needs to invite the former over the latter. if we change the way we talk, it will affect the way we think and act.

like so many things in the Kingdom, this is backward and counterintuitive. we'll fight for marriage best by surrendering, and stand for marriage well by laying down.

as i write today, my heart swells and my eyes well at the thought of my Ryan. i ache with regret for the times i intended fully to walk away from this covenant we're living. and i ache with gratitude to him, to our Church, and to the Holy Spirit for showing me just how strong and beautiful marriage is.

Monday, July 16, 2007


My mom owns a Christian bookstore (The Master's Books and Gifts: A Parable Christian Store), and was asked to speak to a group of publishers at their annual convention last week. She wanted to share a story that lets publishers see how the products they are putting out are affecting people's lives. Mom intended to work the floor during the weeks leading up the event and speak to customers about their stories, but instead she sacrifically stayed here with me during the last few weeks of a difficult pregnancy and subsequent hospitalization of my son Athan. So she asked me what "book story" I might like to share. I composed the following for her, and thought it was blog-worthy:

My mom asked me for a “book story” - a personal account that would exemplify to people in this industry that their work makes a difference in people's lives. “I'd LOVE to,” I said...

Then I sat here in front of a blank screen and a blinking cursor, and I couldn't get one sentence out. It's not that I don't have a book story to share with you. My problem is that I have so many! I just couldn't narrow it down to just one, and I can't give you the i-had-this-problem/crisis-then-i-read-this-book-that-changed-my-life story you were probably hoping to hear. My “book story” is a little different...

I've loved to read from the day I was able to do it. Some books have been more than just fun reads or educational tools – they are markers of milestones in my spiritual life. Rereading them feels like visiting trusted friends, and giving away copies is like introducing one good friend to another. I grew up in the freight room of a Christian bookstore, and I'm so thankful. Much of the way I think about Jesus still reflects what I learned from Aslan in the 3rd grade, and what I learned at age 25 from Phil Yancy in The Jesus I Never Knew. The world of first-century Palestine came alive to me in high school when I read Lloyd Douglas's The Robe, which in turn drew me into new dimensions of the accounts in the Gospels and Acts. Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend helped save my sanity and my marriage. I have been shaped by everything from Confessions by St. Augustine to Max Lucado's books. Ken Gire, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, Mike Yacconelli, Donald Miller, Rob Bell... all these and more have been part of my journey through rebellion, conviction, depression, repentance, returning, refining, rejoicing.

I will probably never meet you, but I hope you remember my story. On the days when work seems mundane or meaningless, know that there are people like me out there who are grateful that you make life-changing materials available to us and the people we love. I pray for you to have wisdom and perseverance, and that the Holy Spirit would be with you as you wade through fluff-n-stuff and seek to publish, distribute, and sell books that are good art with Christ-like heart.

My journey continues to be shaped by so many people "who know Him like I want to know Him," (thank you, Cindy Venable), and who have published some part of their journey toward Jesus. If you want to "meet" some of my friends, I'd be beyond happy to get together and talk books (or you can go here and find them yourself).