FRAGMENTS

“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.” ~ Anais Nin

A Woman at the Store

IMG_3040One late morning a few months ago, I went into the nearby grocery store to pick up some items for lunch. I was moving fast, needing to get back home. I noticed a woman, brown curly hair, thin. She had the store basket tucked into arm and inside her clenched fist were money bills, revealing their various colors to me.

This woman’s face was stern, serious. It was obvious she had a lot on her mind. At the pastry section, where I was filling my bag with fresh bread, she was picking out desserts, carefully-calculating the price of each one. It clicked. She was getting ready for some guests. And I assumed the money clenched inside her tightly bound fist, was all she had to pay for her special lunch.

I said something to her and she snubbed me, not really even acknowledging my presence. Some people aren’t quite sure how to respond to a happy, blonde lady with a weird accent. She went on ahead and I weighed my bread and then went down the drinks aisle.

A few minutes later, I ended up behind her in the check-out line. She watched every item go through the scanner, staring at the price above on the monitor like she was in an eye examination. When the last item went through and the cashier totalled it all up – she was short on cash. Not by much, a couple dollars maybe. She unfolded all her bills and handed them to the cashier and then opened her purse scavenging for loose change. After a few seconds, the cashier asked what she wanted to leave behind.

I don’t usually have cash on me – but thankfully, that day, I did. I pulled out my change and set a few dollars beside the woman and the cashier. “Here. I’ve got some extra change. This should take care of it.” My voice was quiet and I tried to sound as kind as possible but also hoping to downplay it.

The woman and the cashier got confused, like neither of them knew what to do. They stared at me. Then, the woman who was short on money waved her hand fiercely trying not to accept my extra change. I assured her it was not a big deal. “It’s only a couple of dollars. I’m happy to make up the diffference. You go and have a wonderful lunch.”

She came undone. Tears welled up in eyes and she fanned her face, flapped her hand in the air, trembled a little. I reassured her, reaching my hand toward her. “I’m happy to help. I’m sure you’d do the same for me.”

At the time, all I could think, as I watched this woman crumble under the weight of a stranger’s kindness was, “Has life been so cruel to you that you don’t know how to react when someone is gracious?”

She answered my unspoken question. “No one has ever done anything like this for me.” She dabbed at her eyes.

I reached out and toucher her arm again, giving it a tender squeeze. “Please, just go and enjoy your day. Be blessed.”

The woman wanted my number to pay me back, which I refused. And finally she went on her way with all the items she needed for her lunch. Her face had transformed – years melted off.

The cashier checked my purchase. Her eyes were misty and she explained that as a cashier, who sees a lot every day, she had never seen someone something like that – a stranger helping to cover someone’s bill.

I walked out of the store that morning so heavy-hearted. Can it be so hard for people to see the person standing in front of us – in need – and not be moved?

Yes, it can. We grow calloused, jaded, dubious. We judge the scene in front of us, without knowing the backstory.

We grow suspicious that we’re being scammed or tricked and so only choose generosity if we know exactly what’s going to happen with our gift. All the while, we really don’t know anyone’s whole story. How can we? We see in part.

And then I think of the One I’ve chosen to follow, the one whose life I’m supposed to be imitating. He helped people all the time. Jesus healed the ones who asked to be healed. One time he healed ten lepers, and only one came back to thank him. He didn’t withhold his healing hand because they had ungrateful hearts. He didn’t mandate a particular response to his kindness.

Jesus fed five thousand men, plus women and children … knowing full well that even though most would never forget that day, very few would let it transform their lives. He gave anyways …

If we must choose, I say we choose generosity and kindness as our way … It undoes people and changes their faces … 

I’d love to hear one of your stories about generosity … It always changes us.

Much Love,

Tina

 

On Packages and Friends and Being Loved

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My birthday was last week. I am still thinking about the fact that I am thirty-seven. My life looks nothing and everything like I wanted it to be. One of the things that surprises me is how thankful I am for the most simple things – in ways that used to not touch me ten years ago. For example, my heart is so much more tender and full and open than it used to be. I always used to cry. I’ve always been like a sopping wet sponge, just squeeze a little and a lot of water will come out, but I’m more tender than I was before. I’m not sure how that happened. Maybe if a person cries enough over a long enough period of time, the tears run into the heart and soften it up. I feel like my heart has softened, and yet in all the ways true paradox works, it’s always stronger, more resilient, more courageous than it used to be. I think this is because I’ve been loved well. God’s love does wonders.

My mom and sisters sent me a package last week with books. Books! The ones I want to read and hold and smell and a new pair of earrings and cards and post-it notes. I’m remembered. And I’m loved. And today two other packages arrived. One from my dearest of dear friends Karissa – who is raising six kids, has goats and chickens and a garden and many other things to worry about besides me. And yet she took the time to send me coffee, (Thank you God!) and goldfish and a movie for the kids, and books. Books! Real paper.

And a new friend sent me her book in the mail from Ontario – seriously, let’s talk about locational extremes. (Thank you, Laurna!) And yet, even though she lives far far away from me, our hearts are connected. We’ve emailed back and forth and I’m amazed. So many glorious connections.

What I’m trying to say, not very fluidly is how very thankful I am for friendship. For the near and the far, for the ones I’ve known for more than twenty years and for the ones I love but haven’t actually met face to face. I used to take my friendships for granted. I don’t anymore. I’m so very very thankful that we love each other, that you accept me for who I am, that you l like me and hear me. I am also so thankful that I have the rare and special privilege of accepting you – for who you are, for the gifts and beauty you bring to this time, to this era – and to delight in it all – that our paths have crossed on this earth.

Friendships, the ones that are honest and deep, kind and long-suffering are worth the effort it takes to maintain them. That’s what I want to say today.

Much Love,

Tina

 

 

 

On Mary and Martha

IMG_1777Last week I worked on dictation with Emma and Lucas. I picked the story of Mary and Martha. It’s short, has some quotation marks, and it’s a simple story to understand.

I’ve been thinking about the story ever since.

Most of us know the details – Mary and Martha invite Jesus and some friends over for a meal. At the end, Jesus is teaching and Mary sits and learns from him, she doesn’t get up to help her sister. However, Martha wants her to. Martha asks Jesus to make Mary get up and help her. But Jesus doesn’t do what Martha expects.

How many parties have we been to when it’s the women cleaning up at the end? When the men sit around, drinking and talking and the women gather up the dishes and clean? Or everybody sits around at the end and one or two women get up and clean everything? I’ve been to dozens of parties and this happens all the time. It’s something I’m accustomed to and have accepted. I’m not saying it’s bad. I’ve even been chided for not getting up and doing the dishes soon enough after a few gatherings. And they were probably right. I should have helped more.

However, in that culture, in the culture where Jesus was from it went deeper, it was far more intrinsic. This is still the case in some places around the world. Places where women exist to serve men. In the days when Jesus walked around, women mainly served two purposes: to serve the men and make the babies.

And then Jesus goes to a dinner party … And he defends Mary. He defends Mary’s right to learn. He says, what she has will not be taken from her. In other words, she doesn’t have to do and be like everyone else. She wants to learn? She gets to learn. This was revolutionary. That’s why the story got documented by Luke, because it was out of the ordinary.

I find it interesting how many sermons and books and papers and discussions and arguments are dedicated to what a woman can or can’t do in one’s society or in the church. Recently, I even heard of a pastor, a well known pastor, who has been teaching women what they are supposed to do in the bedroom – specific acts. And I cry out, REALLY? Have we not learned anything since the birth and life of Jesus? From the one who gave women their voice – and in his gentle and radical way validated all of humanity?

Mary’s lovely sister Martha made a real attempt to shove Mary back into her duties, her social responsibilities and it even seems right in a way. Shouldn’t Mary have helped her sister with the dishes and the serving? Isn’t that her duty?

Jesus says no. And in his honest way, he invites Martha to the same thing. “One thing is necessary.” He says this in response to how many worries she has. I have a lot of worries, but apparently, one thing is necessary. Interesting.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of us have lots of voices and worries in our heads. We have societal expectations, maybe people hear their mother in their heads, people might hear their pastor in their head telling them what they are supposed to do or supposed to be, people hear all kinds of things in their heads. Apparently in some places there are even voices telling us what or who we are supposed to be in the bedroom – even what God wants us to be in the bedroom. Listen, to use God to manipulate people into doing what you want them to do is a great evil. Let me say that one more time: to use God’s name in an attempt to make people do what you want them to do is a great evil.

Here’s meek and mild Jesus, advocating for a woman who wasn’t doing what she was supposed to do. She was going against what her society deemed acceptable. To me, this is stunning. Jesus gently said,  ”No. Mary’s fine. What she’s about, what she’s chosen, the voice she’s listening to won’t be taken from her.”

And I say – Amen.

There are many voices we have to choose from. There are many expectations in our heads and in our hearts and in our lives. But - Only one thing is necessary. And what you have won’t be taken from you.

Learn to hear One voice. Decide to receive approval and love and favor from the one who created you – and somehow, in some miraculous way – which will probably feel really messy and chaotic but will actually be sane and life-giving – everything will fall into place. Peace will come.

And if I may be so bold, try to resist other people’s attempts to bring you under their jurisdiction and control. It’s not right. Life and good and freedom will never come from being what everyone else wants you to be. This is no small task – but worth the effort.

Have a wonderful week.

Much Love,

 

Tina

 

On What I Know

IMG_3040Today, I turn thirty-seven years old. The clock keeps ticking, the sun keeps rising and setting, the earth keeps turning and it all amazes me much more than it used to. The wonder and beauty of it. On Saturday, I went for a walk through the land. Gilead, my favorite novel, was tucked underneath my arm, Alaska and Gibby followed behind, running every which way. They search for rabbit holes of which there are dozens. The sun shone bright and full, the sky was clear blue, high and holy. I still haven’t gotten used to my birthday falling at the tale end of winter, rather than the summer’s end. I was particularly happy to have such a beautiful day to ponder and soak in the sun’s rays.

We climbed my small hill, where at the top the view beckons me to silence. The mountains, the green rolling hills, and the overwhelming simplicity of life catches my breath. I sat on a rock and thought and prayed and read Gilead. In the distance someone was cutting something, the searing saw echoed through the acres, birds cawed and sang, the wind rustled through the leafless tress. I was utterly alone, but not lonely. Alaska came and sat next to me and stayed by my side. Gibby, the dog we paid good money for, came once and then left leaping over bushes in search of his next meal. You really can’t predict loyalty in this life – no matter the odds. In truth it’s usually quite a surprise who will stay by your side, and it shouldn’t be assumed, it’s always a gift.

So, after living here on this earth for thirty-seven years, ‘ve thought about what it is that I know. Certainly, much less than what I knew when I was twenty-seven. But for what it’s worth, I offer my simple and well-known discoveries to you…

I know that there is a cost to every call. Everytime you say yes to something, you consequently say no to about a dozen other things. This does not seem fair, but there it is. We can’t have it all, despite what everyone tells you. So choose what you say yes to intentionally and boldly. And humbly accept that it implies loss as well.

I know that I want to spend my time …with people who love me or at least like me. I’m not going to waste my time trying to convince people I’m worth it. Life is too short for that kind of self-deprecation.

I know that I can read the Bible after thirty years … and still be stunned speechless over the ways and kindness of Jesus and how he gives people their dignity and pierces through all the religious bull-shit straight to the heart of the matter. I would do well to study him more. I also know there is no greater privelege than being counted as one of his.

I know that family – good and loving family – and all my wonderful friends… make my world light up and bring meaning and significance. I also know that my husband and two children are my most sacred gifts. I hold them in high esteem.

I know there are many ways to live a good and rich life. There are many ways to be useful…. One of my friends travels the world bringing water and sanitation to the most destitute and needy. She learns people’s names and sees their humanity even when they live in terrible conditions, and she validates them. She sees them. Another friend is raising six kids in the country and has chickens and goats and a garden and she opens wide her heart and creates space for people to come and rest and she accepts them. I have another friend who lives on the other side of the world. She works as a nurse and is raising three sons and every day she shows the world a picture of steadfast courage. Hang these lives in the balance and what do you get? Love. A whole lot of love.

I know that… sorrow eventually gives way because of the strength of hope, and death breaks under the weight of life, that light shines in the darkness and dispels it, and that love truly covers a multitude of sin. I know that it is through mystery and paradox that God reveals himself. And that silence is safe.

And finally, I know there are good people… living quiet and ordinary lives all over this world who will never be on Facebook, will never build a platform, will never have a radio show or be seen by a great multitude. But their lives matter and have significance – not because everyone knows or sees them or because they have a great fortune, but beacause they breathe and love and get up every day and face the world, they till the soil, make bread and gently go through life under the watchful eye of the Audience of One. He sees them and this makes their lives significant and mine too, as well as yours.

Thank you for reading this blog, for reflecting on life with me, for staying by my side. Your friendships, near and far, hold me and warm my heart.

Much Love,

 

Tina

 

The Far Away Nearby by Rebecca Stolnit

IMG_1777It’s the first book I’ve read by Rebecca Stolnit and won’t be the last. She reminds me a little of Annie Dillard. She has those same clear thoughts that take you where you didn’t know you needed or even wanted to go. I recommend it.

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“We’re close, we say, to mean that we’re emotionally connected, that we are not separate; or we’ve become distant, to describe the opposite. After years in New York City, Georgia O’Keefe moved to rural New Mexico, from which she would sign her letters to the people she loved, “from the faraway nearby.” It was a way to measure physical and psychic geography together. Emotion has its geography, affection is what is nearby, within the boundaries of the self. You can be a thousand miles from the person next to you in bed or deeply invested in the survival of a stranger on the other side of the world.” (114)

To all my faraways, in whom I am deeply invested …

Much Love,

Tina

 

On Preparing a Place for Us

BoardwalkAt the beginning of John chapter fourteen, Jesus says something to his disciples about how in his Father’s house are many rooms, and how he’s going to prepare a place for them and Thomas says he wants Jesus to show him the way. And here Jesus speaks his infamous words that we use over and over when presenting the Gospel, the teachings of Jesus, and the whole heart of Christianity.

Jesus says, “I Am the way, The Truth and The Life.”

Years ago, I loved to go backpacking. I loved to put on a pack and trek down a trail for days. One would need a map, a compass, a backpack filled with trail mix and other dried goods, and one would need a path or a trail to show them the way. At least, I prefer having a path. I did go backpacking once when we lost the trail and had quite a lot of fun finding our path once again. But if I’m going to go backpacking, I’m not going to choose to forge my own trail.

And here we have Jesus – this Jewish man, 2,000 ago claiming to BE the map, the compass, even the trail mix, and the Path we should walk down. He claims it all.

Exactly where are we headed if we walk down the path of Jesus? I think Jesus is talking about the road back home. When we take to the way of Jesus, we are taking the path home. To God. To the Father, the Heart’s true home.

And the truth is we’re all looking for the way home.

Some time ago, feeling muddled with life and in great conflict with the circumstances I found myself in, I told the Lord, that I didn’t know the way out of where I was, I didn’t know the way through the mess. And I heard a voice in my head say, “I am the way.”

Isn’t that nice? Actually, it didn’t make me feel much better.

I appreciated the sentiment and the truth of it, but what exactly does it mean – He is the way?

Well, after wrestling with it, I’ll tell you what I don’t think it means. In today’s day we are accustomed to bullet points and power point presentations with three point this and three points that. Do these-three-things and you will find your way. You will be a better person, a better mom, a better Christian. That is not the way Jesus is suggesting. He doesn’t give us three points of anything. He gives us himself. He gives us himself in this mysterious relationship that fills you up in the deepest places.

We are communal beings, made for community. Made to be in relationship, not outside, excluded looking in.

Jesus is suggesting that we do this life with him – not with laws and regulations, rules we are supposed to follow, not with lists of right and wrong, bad and good, but in connected friendship with Jesus, the One we’ve been looking for.

This passage speaks to me in particular today because of how much I don’t feel like I belong. I’m glad he’s preparing a place for me. Here I am and we’ve have bought land, built a house, are making friends, and yet, I’ve never felt more out of place than I do right now. Have you ever felt like you just don’t make sense somewhere?

There’s a number of reasons for this. But one of them is because I have crossed the boundaries of all I know – of all that is familiar and there is no handle to hold which will root me in the familiar – I am in new territory. Nothing I’ve seen before.

However, what I have is a deep faith, and a rich interior life that grounds me and sustains me in the new place where I find myself.

The Way Jesus is claiming to be is not a physical road, but a promise that if we are in him, if we live in relationship with him, we are moving toward the heart’s true home. And though we sometimes journey from wilderness to wilderness Jesus himself becomes the handle we hold which establishes us in wherever place we find ourselves.

In him, I’m home. This is profound, indeed.

Much Love,

Tina

 

 

Life in Chile

Hi Friends,

Life is moving along as normal. Nothing drastic has happened this week. We’ve had rain, sun, laughter, smiles, and a few tears. We still have three chickens, two dogs, and one incredibly wild horse. Rodrigo is still working daily on the house. Rodrigo and Lucas built a little dog house for Alaska – the pup we found on the side of the road, and she’s living it up in her palace. We found two eggs the other day. The children were thrilled! And now we’re building a chicken-coop – Chilean style – as in one of our neighbors asked if we’d hire him for something, and we asked if he could build a house for the chickens. He looked at me if I had asked him if the sun was round. According to him, we’ll be able to fit about fifty chickens in this new little house. I’m thinking ten.

This is my backyard … It’s lovely in the morning sun.

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Lucas is up building his chicken coop.

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Alaska’s dog house.

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And last but not least, we’ve placed several of our coffee mugs in one of the new cabinets Rodrigo made… We love Starbucks! And Miss Seattle and our Seattle family and friends every day.

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Anyways, thanks for reading this blog, for your prayers, and for your unwavering support. I am so thankful.

Much Love,

Tina

 

Interview with Marlena Graves

Headshot for Beautiful Disaster A few months back I came across Marlena Graves on Twitter and noticed she had a new book coming out. It intrigued me and we made a connection. I bought A Beautiful Disaster, and it resonated with my life. I felt like I had found a soul sister from far away. What a gift! Marlena writes for Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics and Leadership For Today blogs, she’s contributed to a variety of magazines, she’s a Pastor, has two daughters, a new baby on the way, and as she said on her bio, is married to her favorite person in the world. Please pour yourself a cup of coffee and soak in this interview.

I’m currently reading your book, A Beautiful Disaster, Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokennes and loving it. Can you tell me about your process in writing it, how you came up with the idea? How long it took you …

Thank you, Tina. Your words are gifts to me. Thank you for featuring me on your blog.

I started my book in 2008 but my call to the ministry of writing goes back to 2003. Back then, I sensed God speaking to me about all the lessons I learned throughout my life. They were bottled up inside of me with nowhere to go. At the time, I’d often bemoan the fact that I wasn’t really good at anything, had no skills except being kind to others. People had always called me kind and smart, I guess but I didn’t sew or cook or bake skillfully. I didn’t learn these things as a child-as a child I functioned as an adult due to familial circumstances. I’ve always admired beauty, been drawn to the beauty in nature especially and to the beauty of God, but couldn’t draw or sing like I wanted to. I never learned to play an instrument (my parents didn’t have money for that) though I appreciated music and picked apart songs to see if I could hear distinct voices, keys, instruments, or chords. My favorite thing about music was beautiful or pointed and passionate lyrics.

Anyhow, I felt lost and skill-less. And also, I wanted to go to seminary but was taught by some that it wasn’t the place for women.  After months of confessing my longings to my husband he said, “Marlena, just go to seminary. You’ve wanted to go since you were a teenager.” So even though I wasn’t sure that I’d get a paying job after going, I entered seminary. It was one of the best decisions of my life. At seminary, my professors affirmed my thinking and writing. Some encouraged me to be a professor or pastor. I wrote my papers as if each was a work of art. I had fun crafting artful and articulate answers while engaging theological and ecclesiastical questions.

During seminary, one of my internships was at a radio station. At the end of my internship, I had to do a project. So, I did a radio show. Those at the radio station liked it so much they encouraged me to go on the air. The format of the show was music (rap, hip-hop, alternative, rock, hard rock) with a 10-15 minute message in the middle and music at the end. This was right before widespread live streaming on the internet. So, lots of people called in requesting copies of my messages. One 20-something even said she rearranged her work schedule so she could listen to my live show. I had listeners from diverse denominations, ethnicities, educational, and economic backgrounds-both male and female. Many called in and requested copies of what I shared. And I read on air what I wrote. I think I read well enough so that it didn’t come off as stilted. The public response to my radio show, particularly the affirmation of my messages from all sorts of people, combined with the encouragement of my seminary professors, is how I gained the courage to go more public with my writing. And I thought maybe, just maybe, I’m halfway good at something other than being kind. Kindness came more naturally to me than writing.

The main theme throughout A Beautiful Disaster is finding God in the wilderness, coming to know Jesus and His presence in the arid seasons of one’s life, and you do such a tender job talking about all the different kinds of wildernesses we go through. What is one thing you’d like people to walk away with after they read your book? Something you hope for them? 

My deepest desire is that those who read my book will know that they are deeply loved by God – even in the wilderness. Sometimes it’s hard to believe in and feel God’s love in what for some seems like a hell on earth because God at times can seem so distant. I hope to have in some ways shown how God is very close to us in our sufferings. A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not snuff out (Isa. 42:3).

In a nutshell, this is my hope for my readers, those I come into contact with, and for myself:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:17-19).

You opened up in such a vulnerable way and used your own life stories. Was that hard for you? Natural? In particular, I’m thinking about how you write about your dad and his alcoholism. How did your family react to you wanting to write about these things?

My first chapters in 2008 didn’t have a lot of personal stories. But an editor told me I had to include stories not just insights from the lives of those in Scripture. At first it was really hard. But then I figured I wouldn’t have any credibility unless I shared from my own life. I wanted people to know that these were the truths I learned, the sermons I preached to myself, and that this was how God, his word, and his people shaped my life. My dad’s alcoholism is tied to his bi-polar condition. I know that now.  It’s a way of self-medicating. He doesn’t drink when he is in right states of mind. I asked permission from my mom and dad to write about the circumstances in my book. My dad doesn’t remember anything that happened to him when he wasn’t well and really has no clue about the effects on others except for what he was told afterwards. I wanted to and want to honor my parents and I hope that comes through in the writing. They’ve always loved me deeply and I’ve loved them.

I hope that readers will see the context of who I am and how God has worked and continues to work in and through my wilderness life. Each of us has our own wilderness experiences. Maybe my book will encourage readers to share their struggles with trusted others so they will know that they’re not alone.

You quote some of my favorites. I adore Kathleen Norris and her book Acedia and Me. I read it last year during a particularly painful wilderness season in my own life. If you had to pick – Who’s your favorite author? Or what’s one of the books that has had the biggest impact in your life? Excluding your Bible …

Tina, this is a hard one. A hard one! There are so many books that I love deeply. But, I’ll pick a contemporary one. One of my favorite books ever is Tattoos on the Heart by Father Greg Boyle. It is a book I read over and over. His book has enlarged my soul and my capacity to love. It is full of goodness and insight.

Can you tell me a little about what God is doing in your life right now? What’s he talking to you about? What is he teaching you? 

What great questions! I want to know him better—his love and his goodness and also his power. I heard Dr. Tony Evans say that power comes from intimacy with God. When I think of the power, I think of the power to live a holy life, the life of Jesus in my flesh, and of the power to love others. But I also think of the power that comes in the form of answered prayers (obviously sometimes the answer is ‘No.’). So, I am asking to know him better and to better love others. I am also becoming even bolder in prayer and keeping my eyes peeled to see how he answers those even bolder prayers.

Also, one other thing: my book came out at the end of my second trimester. I am now in my third trimester, pregnant with our third little girl—quite a surprise. I’m in that 1% of women who gets extremely ill in pregnancy, so ill that they have to be hospitalized. With my last pregnancy, I had home health care so I didn’t have to go to the hospital. And also, the doctor told my husband and I not to have any more children because of how hard pregnancy and deliveries are on my body. So, we thought we were done with children. God had other plans. So anyhow, my book came out at the same time I started a part-time job in my church, and when I can barely get around physically to promote my book. It takes me a lot longer to write and reply to correspondence. But I’ve been hanging on to this truth of which a friend reminded me (spoken by Dallas Willard): “We do what we can and let God do the heavy lifting.” I am praying that God does the heavy lifting when it comes to others finding out about my book and reading it. There is very little I can do, even physically. I am keeping my eyes peeled for this too.

In reading through your bio on your blog, I really appreciate the description of how you like to write and share about the Hospitality of God. What does that mean, exactly to you? It resonated with me.

God is welcoming and gracious and completely loving. He’s not prejudiced or exclusive. God welcomes people we wouldn’t. By that I don’t mean that anything goes, not at all. The closer we come to him, the more he melts away all in us that is not of him.

All sorts of people were attracted to Jesus except for those who were jealous of him or who thought him a heretic. The rich, the poor, the marginalized, the intellectuals, men and women were all drawn to Jesus. In addition, those with various thoughts on politics and religion were drawn to him. I hope that my life and writing exhibit the inviting hospitality, love, and beauty of the Triune God. Yet that will only come if I dwell close to him, if I follow him closely. I cannot radiate what I do not experience myself.

So, someone’s in a wilderness in their life and they come to you and share how they feel – broken, tired, alone, confused. Besides, telling them to read your book, what would you share with them? What would you like to give them?

I am not sure I’d tell them to read my book. I think such long for loving and attentive presence first and foremost. If they’ve heard of my book and express interest, I might suggest it, but only secondarily. First, I ‘d really try to listen and be present. My response would be determined by what is shared.

Some people really don’t want advice; they want someone to listen them, to render them visible. They want, as you and I noted above, a hospitable space for their souls. I hope that by being in my presence they would sense the love and grace of God. And if they wanted advice, I’d try to offer advice based on what I discern from what they’ve said. Most of all, I’d want them to know that they are not alone, that there is hope in the midst of this brokenness, and that God and others love them deeply. I think one of the saddest things in the world is to feel alone and without hope and without God in this world. In short, I hope to be (and that others in the church would be) an icon of Jesus to those who come to us for help.

Thank Marlena for such a wonderful interview.

Beautiful-1Please look up Marlena’s Book A Beautiful Disaster, Finding Hope in the midst of Brokenness. You won’t be disappointed.

Feel free to ask a question or to interact on the comments today, Marlena will be around.

Much Love,

 

 Tina

 

 

On Opening Wide our Hearts

IMG_1777One of the only real pleasures of living far away from most of the people I love in this world is that I get to write and read lots of wonderful letters. It’s a different sort of communication. Deep. Rich. Honest. Thoughtful. I have a few friends with whom I write consistently and we send each other the stories of our lives. Pages of our thoughts and hurts and frustrations, also the joys and wow moments. We write the account of what is going on. And it’s rich. One of my dearest and best friends wrote me the other day about the widow of Zarephath. And Elijah.

It was interesting to me that she wrote about this particular story because I’ve given this little widow a lot of thought. Mainly, I consider her posture before God. And flinch. She was going to die. There was no food left, and there wasn’t exactly a food bank just up the street – some cute little Methodist church that would fill her bags with canned good and boxes of oatmeal. Empty cupboards. For me, it takes the prayer, Give-us-this-day, our-daily-bread to a whole new level. They were at the brink of starvation, and God sent Elijah to her. So that she could feed him.

Why? Why didn’t God send Elijah to someone in Israel? In Luke, Jesus mentions it and says something about their lack of faith. God knew that the widow of Zarephath was willing. He knew that despite her financial poverty, her heart was rich. That she’d open wide her jar of oil … and give.

It’s a challenging story for a number of reasons. One, the miracle doesn’t come to the widow before she feeds Elijah, it comes after. Her provision comes after she gives Elijah the last of her food.

I find this difficult to accept. I like to work on an absolute sight-only basis. I would prefer for the story to be that the extra oil appears right before she feeds Elijah, so she’ll know she’s going to have enough. Nope. Not quite how God does it. You have to step toward him and toward his ways to experience them. 

This is remarkable to contemplate.

Second, it’s very difficult to be poor and it’s hard to go through devastating seasons in our lives. It’s just hard. Life is hard. But sometimes life is doubly hard. And the human tendency is to close off. To wall up and defend. Take an I-need-to-take-care-of-me-now posture. I’ve done it. And sure, found reasons to justify myself. It’s hard to return good for evil. And to love those who’ve hurt us. It’s hard to stay open to life when life hits you and throws you up against the wall. Being generous of heart no matter what happens, takes some getting used to. The widow was poor. Dirt poor. And yet she fed Elijah. Her heart was open wide.

As I’ve pondered this characteristic of God and his people, it occurs to me that the whole Christian faith from beginning to end could be framed around the hospitality of God. The great invitation to be welcomed home … Come to me… Come and Drink… Come to the Banqueting Table. Come… What hospitality. Consequently, for God’s people it’s who we are called to be. It’s part of the deal. This is because there are very few one way streets in God’s house.

I can’t receive forgiveness and refuse to extend it. That’s a No-go. I can’t receive God’s love and withhold it from the people I don’t really care for. And I can’t receive the generous, overwhelming invitation to be a part of God’s family without it infecting my heart.

Open wide your heart …

Generosity and hospitality are about our hearts. About welcoming people and making room for them. In our abundance and in our poverty. In our seasons of overflowingness and in our seasons of poverty.

The story of the widow and Elijah teaches us once again that God meets our needs as we reach out of ourselves toward others.

The miracle of provision comes when I give of myself, even in my emptiness. To whomever is placed before me … This is where we have to ask God, who is placed before us. Because he didn’t bring all of Israel to the widow’s house. He brought Elijah.

And it is at this significant crossroads where we really begin to learn and know and understand the riches that are ours in this faith, because anyone can give out of their wealth and abundance, or when it feels good, when it is flowing… but it takes faith to open up our lives and hearts and give even when we’ve been hurt, wounded, or cast aside. This is when it’s costly.

Who has God placed before you? I’d love to hear…

Much Love,

 

Tina

 

Random Bits and Pieces

I’ve got some different bits and pieces I’d like to tell everyone and decided to just put it all in one post.

Leap Books, the publishing house that brought As Waters Gone By into the world, has changed hands. The new management/leadership team is excited, full of spunk and life, and determined to take Leap to the next level. It’s exciting. I’m ever so thankful for Leap Books and the opportunity to publish with their house. When you have a chance, jump on over HERE for more information and see what the new owners are cooking up. And join the fun.

SheLoves Magazine: The other day, scrolling through Twitter, I came across a tweet about this magazine and clicked over. I loved it. Absolutely. It’s an international magazine for women of faith – and the stories and the articles are lovely, full of hope, and down right honest. If you have time, grab a cup of coffee and Read. Read. Read.

A Design So VastI’ve been reading this beautiful blog for a few years now. And have not said much about Lindsey Mead or her writing … but I’m deeply grateful for her honesty, her style, and the way she graciously opens up her life for all her readers to peek in. She writes on thoughtful and mindful parenting, the sacred interplay of living our lives intentionally and watching time go by, and the various books she’s reading. She reads all the time. I’m always surprised when she writes something about a novel or memoir I’ve just been reading and we are both thinking the same thing about it. So fun. Anyways, if you have time read some of her posts.

Brain Pickings is an incredible website/blog. Another write recommended it recently and I jumped over to the site. And was stunned. Maria Popova has gone viral, absolutely famous. She writes and quotes and does book reviews on Creativity and Science and Faith. She sends out a weekly email that I read from top to bottom every Sunday morning. If you are interested in the link between science and creativity, faith and spirituality, reading, and writing … you will love Brain Pickings.

Life in Chile:

Rodrigo is constantly working on the house and I’m so proud of him. My dad once said that if you’ve bit more than you can chew, you just have to keep chewing. Rodrigo has kept chewing, and the house is starting to take shape. One wall at a time. One toilet at a time. One door at a time. I’m so thankful. Here are the latest pictures of the kitchen he’s trying to finish in time for my 37th birthday next month. Yikes.

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Emma and Lucas are just finishing up a good long winter break and it’s time to hit the books on Monday. But they lived up their three weeks with slumber parties, movies, pizza, and staying in their pajamas as long as possible. I have watched The Middle more times than I should admit.

We have added two chickens and a rooster to all the chaos and are currently trying to get a new mare for the kids to ride. The house, while unfinished and still in need of lots of interior and exterior work, is warm and dry. Thanks to God … and good insulation.

Up Next week:  A very special interview with Marlena Graves, author of A Beautiful Disaster, Fragments on Monday, and more pictures on the house project. Stay tuned.

 

Much Love,

 

Tina