Mountain Laid Low

Mountain Laid Low

This rain falls cold, hard, and somehow slow.

This is not the summer’s cloudbursts and flash flood warnings recognized, something to brace for, something intense to be endured with an end to be celebrated. These showers don’t promise the drama of a story arc. These showers fall like a fact, like an unfortunate new reality; a return of the old chill that has never quite left my bones.

Thunder rolls and breaks over the distant mountains like relationships already nearing expiration, hopes born, churned, and destroyed amid much light and fury, but no heat; delivered, yes, but delivered only to death. To be warm again, for the first time, with no fear of the cold deposited, trapped in my marrow; to be cradled, if not in solidity, then at least in hope – at least, at last, finally, at the end of myself -at least, let there be hope. To finally, truly know, with no effort necessary, no suspension of disbelief, with no exercise in faith required, that I’m not broken, that I belong, that I won’t ever have to leave.

But I guess that’s why good, needful country folk talked about, sang about, and got real excited about the “glory land” and the “sweet by and by” and the “land where we’ll never grow old”. Of course, I’ve left behind such strange, literal ideas about heavenly “streets of gold”. The “on Earth as it is in heaven” mission reads more true, makes more sense. I don’t believe in “mansions just over the hilltop”, but I don’t believe in this place either. Folks like to talk about how important or not it is that you and I believe in God; but on days like this, all of these years of days, it sometimes seems it might be more important to believe God believes in me.

If at least I hadn’t come here, I would still have hope that there is something better, something better than a sky of brokenness and tears and this heavy, ancient fact of a rain that floods and drowns, rather than quenches, the prayed for rain that does the parched ground no good. From here, the pinhole of the past shines like a hope absent from the small, dark canvas of the future.

The showers fall into the night. The night falls into me.

– PreetamDas Kirtana

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Words That Give Me Life in 2015: 20 Favorite Books, 3 albums, and 1 blog

And to beat the band to the coming barrage of Year-End Lists, here’s my Top 20 Favorite Books of 2015, in no particular order, with the exception of #1:

20 – Commemorating King – Ewuare X. Osayande

19 – Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together – Ed Cyzewski

18- Unoffendable – Brant Hansen

17 – Brimstone – Hugh Halter

16 – A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel – Brad Jersak

15 – Unafraid – Susie Davis

14 – After The Wrath of God – Anthony Petro

13 – Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates

12 – Wild in the Hollow – Amber C Haines

11 – Rising Strong – Brene Brown

10 – Avenue of Mysteries – John Irving

9 – A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

8 – Did You Ever Have a Family? – Bill Clegg

7 – Everything – Mary DeMuth

6 – The Art of Memoir – Mary Karr

5 – Man Enough – Nate Pyle

4 – WANTED – Chris Hoke

3 – Coming Clean – Seth Haines

2 – Accidental Saints – Nadia Bolz-Weber
and,
I assume to no one’s surprise that has followed me at all here or on FB, the book whose words are hope and Life (and great storytelling!) to me and a book I will continue to gift to others – #1 is, of course,

1 – Midnight Jesus – Jamie Blaine

*all of the books on my list are available from your favorite booksellers (Amazon, B&N, etc.) And would make wonderful, enriching gifts for loved ones, including yourself.

** Looking Ahead – Coming up in 2016, “The Edge of Over There” Shawn Smucker’s sequel to “The Day the Angels Fell”

And among favorite blogs: INDISPENSABLE: John Pavlovitz

Music: Lotsa favorites from country to jazz, but really nothing came close to these 3:
A Table Full of Strangers – Jason Upton

Psalms – Sandra McCracken

The Burning Edge of Dawn – Andrew Peterson

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to alla ya’s and especially y’all artists, writers, musicians, etc. who compel us, convict us, nurture and inspire us, and through your courage, heart, and talent share hope in our hope-starved world.FB_IMG_1450201308803

“Midnight Jesus” by Jamie Blaine

Screenshot_2015-11-16-18-13-15It’s pretty rare that an author and a book come along that actually impact your heart, life, and hope-quotient in a real way. Many hope to and many of us hope they will, but it’s pretty rare. This book, “Midnight Jesus” by Jamie Blaine is exactly that book for me and I’m convinced there’s a good chance it could be for you as well, so I had to let’chall know about it. Jamie Blaine’s book, “Midnight Jesus” calls me back to hope, home, back to risking, trusting.

I’ve had the great good fortune to read some wondeful, solid books lately, but as we near the end of this calendar year, it’s safe to say Jamie Blaine’s “Midnight Jesus” is my FAVORITE book of this and most other years. With economic, solid writing Jamie weaves episodes and stories that unfold for us our own humanity and souls and reveal the Love so great that It welcomes us all and all of each of us in: all of us broken, ragged, scared and scarred, pompous and defensive, those of us who are beyond being able to think we can hide and pretend and act as though and those of us who still are addicted to doing all of those things trying to avoid more pain. “Midnight Jesus” is, for me, a well of hope, the antithesis of the “valley of dry bones” that is my typical experience of so many churches; the anithesis because this Jesus, “Midnight Jesus”, THE Jesus and the way He is presented here in Jamie’s writing made it impossible for me to not find make-do altars where ever I happened to be reading i.e. tears at the kitchen table and in nearly every room in the house. The Love that comes through in Jamie’s writing calls me back to hope, back to home, back to risking prayer And listening and trusting again. Just about the highest praise I could give anything is to say this: that almost never has anything impressed and impacted me as much as Jamie Blaine’s book since I first read Brennan Manning’s work. I’m guessin’ I’ve made the point, but truly, were money no object I’d be asking about case discounts to get this in as many hands as I could. I encourage to you to meet this “Midnight Jesus” where struggle, faith, and grace collide. “Midnight Jesus” is available at Amazon (paperback and Kindle) and Barnes and Noble and other fine sellers I’m sure you’ll find at http://www.midnightjesus.com  Below are a few favorite quotes. I’d love to hear your experience of your read!

“True stories are raw and rough–they do not always end the way we want. But there is power in unpolished stories—those with nothing left to lose.”

_ _ _

“Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between candles but on a cross between two thieves . . . at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where He died. And that is what he died for and about.”

_ _ _

“There is something strangely hopeful about badly broken people coming together to try and find their way through the ugliest parts of life. If there’s hope in the darkest parts, you have to find that maybe hope is going to win in the end. Hope might be stronger than despair. When you see people walk through the worst and come out on the other side, it makes you hopeful.”

_ _ _

“So anyway, my point is, you see,” he says, “maybe God said, ‘Well, before I judge ’em too hard, I outta walk a mile in their shoes.’ In Blue’s world God talks a lot like the narrator on Dukes of Hazzard.

“So he come down to earth as a little baby,” Blue continues, “fought with brothers and sisters and worked in the family wood shop. Tried to go tell people the Good news and his friends screwed him over and then – them religious folks kilt him.”
“Never thought about it that way,” I say, paying more attention now.
“And maybe,” says Blue, serious as he can muster, “when Jesus got back to heaven he kicked off them shoes, looked at God and said…..”

You can meet Old Blue and enjoy the rest of this story and many more in “Midnight Jesus” by Jamie Blaine. “Midnight Jesus: Where Struggle, Faith, and Grace Collide” . . https://www.amazon.com/…/…/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_awd_CSSrwb9KSHVF6

The Story I Tell Myself- by Rebecca Trotter

This. Don’t miss this gift.

The Upside Down World

One day a man was out and about, minding his own business, tending to his own affairs. when life showed up in a foul mood, with obviously ill intentions. The man ducked into the nearest doorway, hoping to lay low until life passed by and took its wrath out on some other unfortunate soul. To his horror, instead of passing by, life pulled open the door and started bearing down on the man.

Quickly, the man retreated further into the building he had tried to take refuge in, hoping that perhaps life had other business there and would not train its sights on him. But it quickly became clear that life had indeed trained its sights on this one man and was not about to let him off easily. The man attempted to find an escape, to return to what he had been doing before life, in its unfathomable wisdom…

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“A Love That Never Shudders at the State We’re In”

from Ryan Dueck: “A love that never shudders at the state we’re in..”

Rumblings

Of all the stories that Jesus tells, there are few that break and remake us, that lay our souls bare, that fire our hearts us with the hope of mercy like the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).  It is a story for broken sons and weary daughters, for love-sick fathers and grumbling exemplars of grim-faced duty.  It is a story that describes the homecoming we all, I suspect, hunger for, even when we are only dimly aware of it.  It is the story of what God looks like and how God loves, no matter what we look like, no matter how poorly we love.

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An unjust Church is no church at all

THIS from Tyler M. Tully: “Lately, there has been a lot of talk around “inclusion.” I get the thought behind making comments like “including gays” and “LGBTQ inclusion,” but that sort of rhetoric really betrays how privileged and dominant heteronormative views have become. Are we cisgendered straight people really making the case that LGBTQ people aren’t already indwelled with the Holy Spirit, that they weren’t at Pentecost, that they aren’t already a part of the Body of Christ, that there aren’t already LGBTQ persons in the pews and part of the Body? If anything, we cisgendered straight Church members should be having discussions centered around why we are “excluding LGBTQ” instead of whether or not we are willing to “give them a place at the table.” It’s the Lord’s Table, not ours, but it ceases being the “Lord’s Table” when it starts being “our table” as defined by those we exclude….”

A Soul and a Bad Bargain

Another piece of amazing writing, heart, and insight from Ryan:

Rumblings

Have you ever had the experience while reading of one sentence almost literally leaping off the page? Amidst all the little black marks on white pages arranged in neat little rows, one collection of markings sets itself apart from the herd, towering above the others, reaching out, grabbing you by the throat, forcing you to reckon with it. Have you ever observed as all the other words on the page, the chapter, the book, recede into the background, as this one sentence burrows into your brain. Have you ever noticed that not all words are created equal. That some matter more, are bigger, deeper, more terrifying than others. That some words drag us into the ring and force us to face foes we would prefer to ignore. That we have even, perhaps, spent long years determinedly ignoring.

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