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

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

On Beauty by Solzhenitsyn

IMG_1780There is a great deal of chaos right now in the world. It seems that everywhere I turn another tragedy has unfolded. I wake up each morning wondering what is coming next. And in all of that, one can’t help but wonder what in the world makes a difference? Does it matter that I pen my novels, or that someone is busy painting their pictures? Shouldn’t we be about doing something more?

Of course, we are to be active participants in doing good on this earth. But what is good? And what changes things over time? I have my ideas. But this morning, I was reminded of the absolute authority of beauty in part of a speech that Solzhenitsyn gave many years ago, and it gave me hope. I thought I would share this with you. Today.

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Dostoevsky once let drop the enigmatic phrase: “Beauty will save the world.” What does this mean? For a long time it used to seem to me that this was a mere phrase. Just how could such a thing be possible? When had it ever happened in the bloodthirsty course of history that beauty had saved anyone from anything? Beauty had provided embellishment, certainly, given uplift – but whom had it ever saved?  

However, there is a special quality in the essence of beauty, a special quality in the status of art: the conviction carried by a genuine work of art is absolutely indisputable and tames even the strongly opposed heart. One can construct a political speech, an assertive journalistic polemic, a program for organizing society, a philosophical system, so that in appearance it is smooth, well structured, and yet it is built upon a mistake, a lie; and the hidden element, the distortion, will not immediately become visible. And a speech, or a journalistic essay, or a program in rebuttal, or a different philosophical structure can be counterposed to the first – and it will seem to fit. And therefore one has faith in them – yet no one has faith.

It is vain to affirm that which the heart does not confirm. In contrast, a work of art bears within itself its own confirmation: concepts which are manufactured out of whole cloth or overstrained will not stand up to being tested in images, will somehow fall aprt and turn out to be sickly and pallid and convincing to no one. Works steeped in truth and presenting it to us vividly alive will take hold of us, will attract us to themselves with great power – and no one, ever, even in a later age, will presume to negate them. And so perhaps that old trinity of Truth and Good and Beauty is not just the formal outworn formula it used to seem to us during our heady, materialistic youth. If the crests of these three trees join together, as the investigators and explorers used to affirm, and if the too obvious, too straight branches of Truth and Good are crushed or amputated and cannot reach the light – yet perhaps the whimsical, unpredictable, unexpected branches of Beauty will make their way through and soar up to that very place and in this way perform the work of all three.

And in that case it was not a slip of the tongue for Dostoevsky to say that “Beauty will save the world,” but a prophecy.

- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “Nobel Lecture” 

I can only add, a deep and abiding Amen to such remarkable words.

Much Love,

Tina

 

On Taking His Time

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I’ve been reading through the book of John. Slowly. A chapter a week. I read the chapter in English, then the next day I read it in Spanish, then I think it over, and then do all that again. It’s a new way for me to go through the Gospels and I’m doing it mainly because I need to mull over things more efficiently in my life. Be slower, more thoughtful.

I’m in chapter eleven. The chapter where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. And I’m stuck. I’m in the part when Jesus waits and doesn’t go quickly to heal his dying friend. He deliberately waits knowing it’s going to cause a whole lot of suffering to the people he loves. But he waits anyways. And he tells them why. For God’s glory. This bothers me.

It hits home. I think it hits home for all of us. How many times have we waited for God to do something, only to realize he’s not going to do it? At least not in the way we think he should.

Jesus knew Lazarus was dying. And the people that called on Jesus, Mary and Martha, in particular, didn’t know that Jesus was going to raise him from the dead. All they knew was that he had healed others with a word, and they waited expectantly, and he wasn’t coming. I can only imagine when Lazarus breathed his last how it felt to his sisters. Why didn’t Jesus come? They must have been … Disappointed. Crushed. Sad. Overwhelmed. Confused.

This is why this story is so crucial in our relationship with God. This passage beckons us to look higher, to think deeper, to wait longer, and to hope farther.

Jesus wanted to do something they hadn’t ever seen before. I used to think it was because Jesus wanted to do something bigger. There might be that. But now, it occurs to me that he wanted to show them another piece of himself. They already knew he could heal. They knew him as Healer. They didn’t know He WAS and IS the Resurrection and the Life. They didn’t know that even after four days dead, with the stench and all, that Jesus could and would call their brother forth.

And here’s why I’m stuck. Stuck. Because honestly, I would have been happy with Lazarus just getting healed. I don’t always appreciate that Jesus wants to show us more. I would have liked Jesus to get a move on, go faster, walk quicker – lay hands on Lazarus and heal him. But, in the end … the story was so much better. For everyone.

We, as a family, are in a place of waiting, of struggling with God to answer prayers, of seeking for answers. It seems we’ve been in this place for two years now. And I can’t help but say … “How long must we wait?”

We’re working on our house with limited funds, Rodrigo’s working on finding a job or figuring out what to do. Do we stay put, or go back? I’m daring to hope again and submit one of my novels once more for the sake of more rejection with the chance that maybe someone will want to buy it. And in all of it, I can’t help but hear this whisper … that God wants to show us more of himself. Call us into deeper intimacy, deeper dependence on him…. He’s about something. Trust him in the waiting…

At the end of the story, Lazarus was alive, the sisters were overjoyed, and everyone knew Jesus better – some really hated him after that and plotted even more to kill him. But, everyone knew what he was about in a radically different way than before. They saw him call a man who was dead for four days, out of the tomb with two words – and Lazarus got up and came forth.

And let’s not forget that even when Jesus knew that he was going to raise Lazarus, Jesus still wept. He still let life and death touch him. Jesus let his emotions rise up inside him and he felt deeply. He is not immune to my cries in the night. He just wants me to trust him – that he’s doing something. That he will make all the pieces of my life make sense. He will make all the waiting and the longing and the confusion and the sorrow and the joy and the laughter come together and be whole – be one piece. One story in Him. Because He is Life.

How about you? What are you waiting for? Praying for? I’d love to hear.

Much Love,

Tina

 

Attend to Today

riverWe’ve talked for a few weeks about hearing God and although, it’s far from exhaustive, I think I’ve made my point. God talks. We have to learn how to listen and hear, to understand. I’ve heard some warm-hearted stories about God speaking to people through dreams, visions, through learning to be quiet in heart. I love reading people’s stories. It helps me to see I’m not alone.

I’ve recently started a new novel and I’m getting ready to publish another book, one I’ve been working on for three years. What is it with me? I am a slow writer. It drives me crazy. I’m determined to write this new one much faster. But you know what they say about the plans of mice and men… The novel I’m hoping to publish in the next couple of months is called An Ordinary Love. An Ordinary Love is all about ordinary love. Ha! Big surprise. I’ll share more in the weeks to come.

However, I’d like to say something about this new project. It’s significant because for the past two years, I’ve suffered from what I can only describe as Writer’s Block. Every time I came up with an idea to write a novel, I’d start taking notes and a couple days into it, I’d declare myself a failure and agree that the book was stupid, the idea dumb, completely unoriginal, and then I’d throw it in the garbage and despair. Not to mention, I didn’t have creative energy. This sounds more New Age than I mean for it to. I mean, I didn’t have the internal resources to create something new. I was working on starting a new life, dealing with culture shock, trying to find my way here, and all the creative energy I had was used up going to the grocery store and trying to understand Chilean – the words that are underneath the words … the language of people’s hearts. That’s where culture reveals itself. And it was a language I didn’t know, one I really didn’t understand. The Chilean language. Two years later, I at least understand that it’s foreign to me and can accept that we approach life from a completely different vantage point. And yet, even in that cultural divide, brokenness and heartache really look the same, don’t they?

Anyways, about this new book. It’s not that anything revelatory happened that I think everyone should know. It’s that one day I woke up and said, Okay. Now, I can start this book. And I did. I didn’t have to make myself sick trying to do it. It was there. There was water to draw out of the creative well.

I think this can be applied to almost anything in our lives. Transition and heartache, change, new beginnnings, painting, prayer, raising children, being pregnant, getting married … all those things require creative energy. They all require that we be present to them and attend to their needs. Sometimes we can’t do anything else but live today. Be present in today. It’s enough.

It’s fairly common for me to hear people’s unspoken dreams. The wishes and I-would-have-if-I-could-have statements. And I used to tell them that anything worth doing in our lives takes discipline. I get up and write every morning. Except … all of a sudden, I couldn’t. Sometimes, I got up and wrote but it was chaff, stupid – I was truly blocked. For two years. I blogged, journaled all that, but I didn’t write a novel, which is what I love to do.

These last two years has given me insight and have tilled great compassion inside me for anyone struggling with creative blocks. You want to paint, you want to design, you want to write, but it’s not there.

Isabel Allende struggled with writer’s block after her daughter Paula died. She wrote Paula, the memoir, and then afterwards pretty much went dry. It was in a bookstore that she came across Anne Lamott and told her of her struggles and Anne Lamott just said, “The well has gone dry. You need to go out and fill up your well again.” So Isabel Allende went to India and traveled and grieved her most beloved daughter and gave herself time. Then, one day, she was ready, and she wrote.

Some of you, my friends, are ready. But you’re afraid. You want to write, you want to show your work to someone but you’re afraid they’ll tell you your work sucks. Find better friends if your best friends tell you that your creative work sucks. But whatever you do, you must share your heart. It’s time.

But there are others who don’t have the energy or the strength or the time and you feel shamed when you read that there’s always time if you really want to do something, that it takes discipine. And I think there’s truth in this. So maybe, just maybe, you really don’t want to do it yet. And that’s okay. It’s not time to paint or sculpt, or write. It’s time to be present to the people right in front of you and they are enough. That’s what I finally had to say to myself. It’s not the time to write a new novel. It’s time to be present. And when it’s time to write a new novel, it’ll be there.

The fear was that it wouldn’t be there ever again. And well, that’s just one of those things I had to wrestle with. Maybe it wouldn’t be there ever again. And that was finally okay too.

Much Love,

Tina