when life is a whirlwind & He sympathizes with my weaknesses.


A few days ago, I stood at the sink in our kitchen, washing my hands, thinking. I looked up at the liturgical calendar I keep on the bar, the one nestled between pictures of the little boys, behind the holy day candle. The calendar stands there to remind me of the seasons, to anchor me in time.

Each page of the calendar tells me of a season based on the life of Christ. Right now, of course, it says “Lent.” Alongside the name of the season, various themes are displayed. And as I looked up from the trickling faucet, glanced away from my dripping hands, one theme caught my eye: disruption.

I felt the prick in my spirit immediately, recognized the inner knowing nod, the familiar frustration. In the last 8 days, Gabriel got sick, then got better just in time to go to Shriners. Twice. Then Jared got sick. Gabriel is now clingy and cautious, sore knees that haven’t directly touched the floor in weeks and uncertainty about what will happen when people touch him, what is coming next if I release him from my arms. Owen is feeling the chaos, trying to sort it out, asking me if Gabe has another “ma-ppointment,” if he has a babysitter coming.

This morning, I have called at least 6 different phone numbers trying to get a medical paperwork question answered to no avail. Both kids want my engagement at every level, want to climb on me and lay on me and are unimpressed by me attempts to engage them in independent activities. Right now, they are decorating a laundry basket with pipe cleaners and ribbon, and I suspect this will last for about 42 seconds. Actually, I overestimated. Gabriel is now 10 inches away from me pulling the cleaning supplies out from the cabinet (we’re big time “safety first” people around here, clearly) and Owen is yelling for me help him decorate his “rocket ship,” because “this is hard work.”

Gabriel has learned how to say “mommy” recently, which I treasure, storing up the gentle, excited sing-song of his voice.  But sometimes, his call makes me wonder how mommy-ish I really am; it makes me wonder if I have the tenderness these littles need. It makes me wonder why I feel like I’m one of the “mom” mothers, not the “mommy” mothers. It makes me wonder what it means when people observe that I don’t talk to my kids “like they’re kids.” It makes me wonder if I’ll be better at this when they’re teenagers.

I keep thinking about that word, disruption, about how just because our life has a high level of intensity, that doesn’t mean the little nuisances of everyday life won’t still happen. It all happens. The big and the small happen all at once, or they alternate, or they go quiet simultaneously or they get loud together and life is either a season of disruption or a season of waiting for it, of training my heart not to fear the future, not to assume that frustration is coming, but doesn’t it seem like it inevitably does?

Disruption in the context of Lent grips me hard and forces me to a lower places than I’m naturally prone to go. It transports me to the reality of the disruption of Jesus, of His perfect, earthly existence, of His sudden confinement to a body of a flesh, of endless worship turned to fatal scorn. He was not acknowledged for who He was, was not beheld, was not treasured or recognized. He was disrupted at the deepest level, disrupted unto death.

And the thing is, I don’t think that the Spirit is calling the death of Jesus to my mind in order to shame me. I don’t think He’s minimizing my disruption or negating it. I think that He is calling me to mirror Jesus in His acceptance, to acknowledge the pain and the imperfection and the wishing it could be another way and to keep going, to press in, to be willing to endure disruption, confident of the promises to come.

When I question my motherhood, when I think someone else could do this better than I could, when I see my limitations and weaknesses staring back at me in the form of two tiny faces, I think of disruption, of how to lean into it and not away from it, of how thankful I am that Jesus did not cling to that which was rightfully His. I am asking the Spirit to remind me of how unconcerning it actually is if I feel like a “mommy” mother or a “mom” mother, because I am the mother who is here, the mother who loves and prays and brings alongside, the mother God appointed for the boys He gave us. I think of how He is the One who decided that an introverted, thinking over feeling, writing over crafting woman would be the nurturer of these little souls, would be the mother who tries to live a life where experienced disruption is not equivalent to internalized depression so that her children can engage a broken world with strength, with the expectation of pain and the endurance to bear it.

Disruption is not my ideal, but it is not eternal either. And the Jesus Who faced ultimate disruption is eternal, so while I wait for the paperwork phone call and for Daddy to come home and for Gabriel’s anxious heart to calm, I’ll think of Him, how He knows more of disruption than I ever will. And maybe by the end of the day I’ll know Him, I’ll trust Him, just a tiny bit more.

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a farewell, a moving forward.

Gabriel’s casts came off today, the ones with the holes over the knees that gave glimpses of his skin, the ones that rendered more than one pair of pants threadbare. Farewell, old friends.
They came off about an hour and a half ago, and now we are waiting to see the orthotics specialist, to see if the braces that were molded for him during surgery fit correctly, to see if our next transition phase can begin. The receptionist assured me that we are still deep in the queue, encouraged me to go get a coffee while Jared waits with Gabriel. So that’s what I’m doing, 2 1/2 hours into the appointment that has no end in sight. I’m writing this in the Starbucks line, in the parking garage, on the walk to the elevator.

God and I have the same conversation on many of these days, these days consumed with the drive and the waiting rooms anew the clinic tables. I tell Him how hard it is for me to believe that this is the best use of our time, all of this waiting, all of this discomfort for my son, all of these next steps that are not really solutions.

And He doesn’t really say anything back.

I do not take this to mean that He is angry or ignoring me. Strangely, I interpret it in just the opposite manner, which is how I am able to say that this is a conversation I’m having with Him, that it is not merely a litany of my complaints. I take His silence to mean that He is telling me just to be here, telling me that He is with me and with Gabriel, telling me to remember and believe that which I already know: His goodness. His relentless goodness that I do not understand but oh, how I long to. I want to understand His goodness in the room where the feet do not move and in the room where my friend’s baby is no more and in the rooms where friendships fall apart and marriages crumble and war and famine and hatred run rampant.

I understand His goodness factually and I understand it experientially at times, even today. I understand it when I see Gabriel’s legs kick free, when he touches his calves hidden month-long beneath plaster, when he smiles at the sensation of his tiny fingers grazing his unwrapped skin. I understand that goodness and pain can sit in the same space; I think of this when it ponder Jesus on the cross, searing loss leading many sons to glory. So maybe what I mean when I say I want to understand His goodness is that I want to experience it all of the time, that I want every enemy of the good to be eradicated, that I want this now. I don’t want to long for the kingdom anymore; I just want to see it come. But in the meantime, in all this waiting,  whether it be behind the dashboard or behind the clinic doors or anywhere else, I ask Him to lead me on in my journey of learning to wait with hope, to give me the faith to expect him, to give me the tenacity to accept the pain of the world but not be crushed beneath it. I’m back with Jared and Gabriel now, we are waiting on the final orthotics fitting, waiting on the specialists so faithfully committed to making sure the fit is perfect, that his foot can breathe as it sits inside the plastic 23 hours a day. We had a taste of goodness just now as we learned that Gabriel does not have to wear his bar anymore, that his doctor does not see the benefit of it any longer with what we know of Gabriel’s condition. This is an intertwined goodness of course, reminding me of Micha Boyett’s recent words, on the braid of grief and love in the life of a mother with a child with special needs. If Gabriel were facing a typical clubfoot prognosis, then these would be the days of sleeping with the bar. But he’s not, and while what we are facing is largely unknown, the problems that the bar would prevent are not the problems that are specific to Gabriel.

So we’re choosing to rejoice today, even as we grieve, even as we take steps on a road we would not have chosen. God tells us He is good. He tells us this in His silence, tells us this in His shouting, and we walk toward the surety of Him, toward the fullness of Him we will one day know.

It’s 4:30 now; I’m standing in line to schedule Gabriel’s next appointments, which stand like mile markers on this road unknown. After this, we will go home to Owen, to the day to day that is really not very day to day feeling at all, in ways hard and ways wonderful. And He will be good in each second of it, and we will carry on. 

the christian calendar for the whole family.

kid lights

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of joining my friend Zack in a breakout session on parenting at our church’s Grace360 conference. The theme of the conference was “the integrated life,” and Zack invited me to speak on the Christian calendar as an opportunity to live a more integrated family life. The session was videoed, and I’m excited to share it with you today.

In my 10 minute spiel (which begins around 46:40, though I highly recommend listening to the whole session!) you’ll hear me:

  • de-mystify some of the more ethereal elements of the Christian calendar
  • provide simple, practical ideas for engaging the seasons of the liturgical calendar as a family
  • recommend helpful resources

Speaking of resources, the handout I provided in this session is available to you here – just enter your email address and it will arrive in your inbox along with a few other surprises.

At the beginning of each season and on each holy day, I share specific ideas for observation with the whole family. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or bookmark the blog so that you don’t miss anything!

Do you have ideas for observing the Christian calendar as a family? I’d love to hear them! Share your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook.

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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season: lent | holy day: ash wednesday

 On January 1, I announced a new blog series here at Joy Woven Deep. If you haven’t seen that post yet, I encourage you to check it out, then come on back and join in the journey.

The Season of Lent | Ash Wednesday
the season of

What is the time span of the season? Lent begins 40 weekdays (does not include Sundays) before Easter, with a holiday called Ash Wednesday. In 2016, the Lenten Season Holy Days are:

Ash Wednesday – February 10
Palm Sunday – March 20
Maundy Thursday – March 24
Good Friday – March 25
Holy Saturday –  March 26

What’s this season all about?
The season of Lent marks Jesus’ journey to the cross. On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded that we came from dust and we will return to dust. Lent beckons us to remember our humanity, to identify with Christ in his suffering, and to realize how great a chasm our Savior crossed to redeem us from our sins.

What’s the history of this observance?
“The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting.” (source)

What’s it to me?
The season of Lent, starting with the earthy, dusty message of Ash Wednesday, prods me to inspect dark corners of myself and grisly truths of the world, both of which I would so much rather ignore. My sin is so invasive, so engrained. My depravity runs so deep that it required blood to run red. My desire for hope courses through me, tempting me to rush toward the victory and glory of Easter, but Lent tells me to slow down, to consider Jesus’ suffering, to consider my own suffering, to consider what I will not suffer because He suffered it for me. The Lenten themes of fasting, emptying, discipline, self-examination, contemplation and patience draw me toward a deeper faith and recognition of my union with Christ. If I am to be united with Him in His glory, to find the victory sweet, I must first ask Him to show me the horror and tragedy of the battle.

So, boil it down for me, would you?
Lent calls us to look to our Savior, the Suffering Servant who counted us worthy of the taking on of sin, of shame, of suffering, though He had no fault. Just as Christ emptied himself on our behalf, we are offered a space in which we ask Him to empty us of ourselves and walk with us into the deep and lowly places.

So, how could we observe it?

Read the Daily Office texts here or via this app.

Read the Lectionary texts.

Read, pray and meditate on “the Liturgy & Litany” for Ash Wednesday.

Ponder the concept of Lent as an invitation.

Consider “emptying yourself” (fasting) of something dear, and determine with what you will replace that activity or item. When you are tempted to partake of what has been given up:
– pray for a specific person
memorize Philippians 2:5-9 (known as the kenosis passage – Jesus’ self-emptying of his rightful position)
– memorize part of the account of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection
– write down something Jesus saved you from by taking on your sin and shame, and thank Him
subscribe to my newsletter & receive a free PDF with thoughts and resources to help you establish a new habit centered on the life of Christ

Follow Jerusalem Greer’s Lent Series from last year (family friendly).

Download the Sacred Ordinary Days Essentials Workbook and grow in your understanding of Lent through the one page summary. Then use the workbook pages to reflect on the past season and reset for the season of Lent.

Add touches of purple (reminds us Christ’s painful death and His royalty) and gray (mourning, loss, death) to your decor (mantel, center piece, candles, flowers).

For kids: Plant forget-me-nots that will bloom around Easter. Read some of God’s commands all through Scripture in which He tells us to remember Him/His ways (or, in this case, “forget-Him-not), culminating in Christ’s words “do this in remembrance of me.”

I would love for you to join the conversation. Would you add your voice to the conversation via blog post comments or on my Facebook page and share your thoughts on these questions with us?

What are your ideas for observing Lent & Ash Wednesday?

Which components of exploring liturgy and the Christian calendar are you thinking about this week?

Is this series serving you well? What are you enjoying? How could it improve?

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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a ground spacious and holy.

Be the Bridge is a nonprofit organization founded by Latasha Morrison which exists to be a credible witness of the glory of God through racial reconciliation. Latasha asked Andrea Poehl and I, two of several women who have had the privilege of being in a local Be the Bridge conversation group, to write pieces on racial reconciliation to feature here and on Latasha’s site. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to read Andrea’s post, and to watch Latasha’s segment (starts at 42 minutes) from this weekend’s If:Gathering in which she interviews another conversation group (the video is only free through today!)

We gathered in my living room, February of 2015, 7 women and nearly as many babies sleeping on their mothers’ chests. We were a lounge pants wearing group of IF: Local participants, hearts hopeful for refreshment, souls expectant of the Spirit’s movement. Oh, how He moved.

This was the February after Michael, Eric, Tamir. This was the Gathering when IF seized the moment, when they refused to be silent on an issue though they had not solved it. That’s a hard thing to do. We like to have our ducks in a row, us Christian folk. We like to know what we’re going to say and what we want you to believe when we finish saying it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, really, until there is. Until that way of thinking keeps us from having conversations because we aren’t sure which way they will go, until it keeps us from talking about events past or present because we don’t have all of the specifics, and more than that, because we don’t have solutions.

When Latasha and the roundtable participants walked onto the stage, it was clear that this was something we hadn’t seen before. The way of asking questions, the honesty of the answers, the cleverness of “the elephant in the room” passed from person to person to indicate whose turn it was to speak, this was not a summit for solving the world’s problems, it was a spacious place for knowing one another, for listening. That was the point. The words were important, but the profundity was in the listening, in the honor shown by locking eyes, by the lack of interruption, by the facial expressions that said, “I want to hear you.” This table was about holding space for one another’s stories.

Over the next few months, racially charged tragedies were relentless. Articles were everywhere, social media posts of differing and staunch opinions flying wild, creating bottomless rabbit holes of comment threads that were often better left unread. It was all very disheartening to me, which, as a white woman, I realize sounds absolutely ridiculous. What did I have to be disheartened about? Nothing. But I suppose that was the point. People were suffering, unheard, treated unfairly, and what could be done? On the day that the OU fraternity story came out, my soul could no longer withstand the conviction. Posting articles on Facebook wasn’t going to be enough anymore.

“Remember that race roundtable? Could we do that?,” two friends, Amy and Andrea, and I pondered by email.

Yes, we all have “A” names. We are also all white.

We acknowledged this immediately, the fact that without input from friends of color this effort was fruitless. Thus began the awkward invitations, and the gracious responses of four women – Carole, Jessica, Jenny and Zoe. A few weeks later, we gathered around a table. And it was not perfect. We still had “too many” white women, three of us out of a group of seven. But when we prayed, when Carole opened the Bridge to Racial Unity guide and began to lead us, God’s grace spilled out over our imperfections and He laid the soil of holy ground, making fertile the place for tender confidences, for stories, for repentance, for forgiveness.

Six of us continued to meet every few weeks after that first night. And then Charleston happened, and all we wanted was to be in the same room together, to grieve this atrocity around the table with the people who had proven themselves humble and strong enough to lament, to bear the weight of hurts, questions, anger, repentance. It was then that we realized the fact that this group had accomplished its essential purpose. We had crossed the bridge from fellow members of a group to deeply bonded friends, the kind of friends who can talk about the hard things and trust that there is fierce grace in the depths.

We were on fire when we met after Charleston. Hot with anger, racked with grief, overcome with passion, it was time for us to do something more, and we knew exactly what it was. Since the first night we met, we had discussed the possibility of helping other groups get started. And this was the time. Nationwide, hearts were broken over the tragedy in Charleston. Many who had been hesitant to enter the racial justice conversation were ready to take a step toward engagement. So, we decided to host a night at Amy’s house where we would share what our group had been doing, perhaps model a round table, offer resources and, if participants were interested, get new groups started. To our great surprise, over 100 people came, joining us on that holy ground.

BCS BTB NightSince then, new discussion groups, a book club which hosted a community event to discuss The New Jim Crow, and a Facebook group have all been started. A class at Texas A&M University took us on as a project, spreading the word throughout the campus and community. We attended a vigil for victims of police brutality hosted by a black fraternity. We partnered with a church to host a public reading and discussion of Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

“So…what exactly is the point?,” you may ask. We have found that the point is to gather those willing to lean in and listen, to engage in the ministry of reconciliation given to us by Jesus Christ, to believe that this will lead to change. Perhaps, at first, the point is simply to acknowledge that change is needed.

I encourage you to consider how you can join in the story. My prayer is that more and more of us will become fiercely convicted by and convinced of the ministry of reconciliation which God has given to us, that we will be willing to overcome the fear of the confusing or unknown, to repent of bias or bigotry. May we bear the image of God as we bear the weight of one another’s hurts, confusions and questions. May we be seekers of the holy ground and may there be many who stand alongside us.

Since IF last year, the Bridge to Racial Unity guide has been downloaded over 4000 times. Groups are popping up across the nation, and hard, healing conversations are happening. You can be a part! If you are local, check out the BCS Be the Bridge Facebook Page. The nationwide Facebook group is here, where you can connect with others online and near you. Find resources here.

the feast of the transfiguration (reframe series).

the feast of the transfiguration - joy woven deep

What day does it fall on? According to the Revised Common Lectionary, The Transfiguration is observed on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday/Lent; in 2016, that’s February 7. Some denominations celebrate in August.

What season are we in? Epiphany/Ordinary Time (January 6 to February 9, 2016)

What’s this day all about?
The Feast of the Transfiguration celebrates the account told in Luke 9:28-36, which occurs just after the disciples have vehemently rejected the idea of Jesus being put to death. Jesus takes Peter, John and James up on a mountain and reveals Himself to them in His glory and splendor. Moses and Elijah are there as well, reflecting Christ’s radiance. Peter is so awestruck by the occurrence that he suggests that he, James and John build three tents in which Jesus, Elijah and Moses can dwell. Immediately after he says this, God speaks from a low, heavy cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my chosen One, listen to Him.” The cloud departs, and Jesus is found alone.

What’s the history of this celebration?
The Feast of the Transfiguration has been celebrated since the late fourth century. It is celebrated at different times of the year in various sects of Christianity, but many celebrate it on the Sunday before Lent, as it reminds us to worship and be strengthened by the glory of God in order to prepare for the upcoming journey to the cross.


What’s it to me?
I am completely taken by the reflective and prophetic imagery in this passage. Just as a cloud of God’s presence descended upon His dwelling place, the tabernacle, a cloud of His presence descends upon God made flesh. Moses and Elijah are, too, rich with meaning. Moses represents the Law of God, Elijah the Prophecy of God, Moses the dead who had been buried, Elijah the living since He had been “taken” and never died. Jesus’ clear superiority as shown in the transfiguration, as Moses and Elijah reflect His glory (rather than producing their own), proclaims that He is Lord over all. Jesus is the true and better Law. He is the true and better Prophet. He is Master over the Living and the Dead. And He is gracious, so very gracious, to show His glory to John, James and Peter who have just scorned His declaration that His death was soon to come.

So, boil it down for me, would you?
The Transfiguration calls us to remember the majesty and glory of Jesus. As He was shown in His splendor, He was proven to be greater than the two “greatest” among the Jews. May we reflect on how much greater He is than anyone else, anything else we exalt, and may this be the spirit in which we begin to prepare our hearts for the season of Lent.

So, how could we observe it?

Read the Daily Office texts here or via this app.

Read the Lectionary texts.

Pray “the Collect” for The Transfiguration (titled “Last Sunday after the Epiphany).

Read the hymn on this page alone or with others.

Discuss with friends or family the things that are so natural to magnify as the best, whether they be secular or religious (just as Moses and Elijah were magnified in Jewish culture). After discussion, listen to the song “Jesus is Better” together.

Consider a command of Jesus that is hard for you follow. Ask the Spirit to lead you in obeying God’s call to “listen to” Jesus.

Sit down with your Bible and a concordance (or website) and discover:
– When else in Scripture is a mountain a place where people meet with God?
– When else does a cloud have a role in God’s communication with His people?

For kids:
– Explain that “transfigured” means “changed or transformed.” Discuss other examples of something changing or transforming.
– Take your kids outside to look at clouds. While you’re gazing, talk about how God loved us so much that He spoke from a huge, low cloud to tell us His deep desire for us – to listen to His Son.

Sources: here, here & here.

I would love for you to join the conversation. Would you add your voice to the conversation via blog post comments or on my Facebook page and share your thoughts on these questions with us?

What are your ideas for observing The Transfiguration?

Which components of exploring liturgy and the Christian calendar are you thinking about this week?

Is this series serving you well? What are you enjoying? How could it improve?

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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Not Like Them: Race & The Church (a guest post by Andrea Poehl)

Be the Bridge is a nonprofit organization founded by Latasha Morrison which exists to be a credible witness of the glory of God through racial reconciliation. Alongside many others in our local community, Andrea Poehl and I have had the honor of being a part of a Be the Bridge group. At Latasha’s request, Andrea and I have each written a piece on racial reconciliation, both of which will be featured on Joy Woven Deep and on Latasha’s site. I’m honored to bring you my friend Andrea’s post today, and want to encourage you to tune into If:Gathering this weekend via their livestream. Latasha is part of their leadership and will discuss racial reconciliation during the conference.

Not Like Them: Race & The Church
Written by Andrea Poehl

I was ten years old the summer I unrolled that musty sleeping bag, nervously securing my space in the cabin. YMCA Camp Grady Spruce. So there I was in my wind shorts, tube socks and female version of the 80s mullet. (Believe me when I say that my awkward years started early and ended late.) It was everything you imagine camp to be…sailboats, arts and crafts, giggling after “lights out”.

Like so much of life, it was all fun and games until it wasn’t. The counselors sat us down to report that someone had stolen another camper’s money from the cabin. If anyone was responsible or had information, we should come forward because, “you know, girls …the truth always comes out.”

My invisible cape flapped in the summer wind. Truth. Justice. One whole decade old and I already loved these words. The truth? The truth is that girl Tamesha seemed suspicious to me. Why was she hanging around the cabin? What was she doing while we braided thread into bracelets that would secure our lifelong friendships? Tamesha was different. Tamesha was other.

“I think Tamesha did it”, I reported accused. In the name of truth and justice, I gave an account, enticing just enough fear in just enough people. My last memory of Tamesha was sufficiently shameful, shoulders sloped, wet lines down her face. I’m not sure what happened after that day, only that she suffered.

This memory still haunts me.

Not as much as it haunts Tamesha.

You see nobody taught me to be suspicious, coaching me in the fine art of racial profiling. The Civil Rights Act had long been passed and yet here I was, superior. How did I get there? Why did I see Tamesha as separate, less than, not like me… not like us?

Racism, that’s why. It was in me at age ten, and it’s in me today. This might be where you stop reading, because this is where I say it’s in you also. The reality of the fall is that we’re all racist, even when we don’t think we are, see how we are or even want to be. Racism is not only about skin color but “otherness”.

“Racism? Are you kidding, look at all our progress! Privilege?! Whatever. I’ve worked for everything I have and they should too! Police Brutality?! If people would just show some respect. Immigration?! So do you want your kids to get blown up?”

I’ve heard all of the above statements recently- out loud, and with a straight face. And wait for it… this conversation is happening across the faith community. It may take the form of hushed whispers around living rooms, but words, dark and venomous, are seeping out of our hearts, exposing the gaping hole between what we profess and what we actually believe. I was asked to write a blog post on race. Chances are you’ve met your reading quota of race-related musings but might I encourage you to lean in a bit longer?

Of all people we ought not be surprised. Paul addresses this issue to the Ephesian church in our sacred text…

Ephesians 2:12-14

Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the promise, having no hope without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.

For thousands of years Jews had found their identity and expression in terms of being not gentiles. There were 613 laws that set them apart. Their food, clothing, worship, all manners and customs identified them as being “not like them”.

Even Jewish worship took place where Gentiles could not go. No matter how much they loved Yahweh, they were still “other”. Imagine a 6-foot wall, inscriptions warning the Gentiles from entering, or death was the punishment. Two groups, cultures, identities, histories – distinctly separate from one another but now made one through faith in Christ.

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.

Down fell the dividing wall and there stood the church…not the Jewish Christian church, nor the First United Gentile Christian Church but the Church of Jesus Christ. Paul’s advice was not simply to “Forget about all your differences and just love one another. Good luck and kumbaya.”

His first instruction was to REMEMBER.

What wall are you standing behind, bearing your weight against? How are we, the church, defending the dividing walls among us, girding them up with our fears, and opinions? Take a moment to reflect. Who is on the other side of your wall?

We must first remember…

Remember, how far off you’ve been. Remember your former position: excluded, separated, other, stranger, unworthy, without hope, and without God.

The first step toward unity is memory… to remember.

Remember how you were brought near, how Christ abolished enmity through the cross, therefore we are no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens.

Remember this was not because you were whatever enough. Fill in the blank here____ : good, hardworking, respectable, winsome, charitable, virtuous, likeable, sacrificial, sensible, attractive, moral or deserving enough.

Remember precisely how you were repositioned and redefined.

Remember, beloved church, the blood of Christ.

For He Himself is our peace.

For He Himself broke down barriers.

For He Himself brought opposite and opposing people groups together into one family.

There will always be opposing sides.

But if we are His workmanship, a poetic expression to a world of opposites and others, then what is our song?

In what ways are we bearing witness to the world that God has not abandoned us, and by us I mean any of us. That threatening inscriptions on dividing walls were brought low by the blood of Christ. That Jesus still brings us near when we are far off and without hope?

Racism is the cultural dividing wall, erected first in our own hearts. It is the fullest, and most insidious expression of “otherness”.

Christ tore down the wall. There is no other, there is ONE. One body and one Spirit, just as we were called to one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Eph. 4:4-6

Let us remember…

Remember that otherness leads to injustice. The fact that we think, feel and behave as if anyone is “other” is an indictment against us. The middle eastern man at the airport, the protestors lining sidewalks, the 10-year-old named Tamesha at summer camp.

And for those of you who are tired of this dialogue or even angry about it …

Remember that reconciliation is both a fact and a mission. Because you were far off and brought near, you are now a minister of reconciliation.

Remember to listen. Listen to our cultures’ responses, to sinister comments like, “I’m not racist but…” And God, help us listen to the voiceless, the hurting. Hear their pain, consider their plight. Listening matters. Listening is where we start.

Remember to speak out. Speak out when Uncle Joe tells derogatory jokes, when your child makes comments about a fellow classmate, when the person in line before you is overlooked or mistreated. Use your privilege to confront racial injustices when you see them happening.

Remember to educate yourself. Educate yourself through reading (see resources here), and commit yourself to learning. The greatest lessons come through friendship. Develop friendships with people who don’t look like you. Expect to be changed.

Finally, as the spirit of our recently honored MLK day lives on, let us remember his words that extend to us even now…

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace, which is the absence of tension, to a positive peace, which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action.” . . . Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

May we consider what it looks like to move away from a ‘shallow understanding,’ marching over the rubble of the dividing wall now torn down, walking toward Him as He reconciles us to one another.

Andrea Poehl HeadshotThe mission and ministry of Christ is to bring about the redemption of the whole world! For those who trust in Christ, our personal brokenness is healed and we become a new creation. This means, among other things, that we see the world in a whole new way. We are to be deeply concerned for those with no voice, for those who are hurting and suffering, and for those who are helpless and hopeless. Furthermore, the church should call to account those powers, which keep them in such estate. This is the heartbeat of Andrea Poehl, her family and her ministry.

Andrea met Ryan, the community outreach pastor at Grace Bible Church, College Station at Texas A&M while serving in Youth Impact, a local ministry of GBC to marginalized youth in Bryan/College Station. Seventeen years later and now the proud parents of eight-year-old twins, they continue to serve this community together. 

Her passion for vulnerable children and families led her into education where she taught Head Start before becoming an Administrator for the College Station Independent School District’s Early Childhood Program. Andrea was awarded Teacher of the Year in 2007 and currently​ uses her gifts to empower educators and parents of young children as a consultant for Essential Elements LLC, providing support to Head Start programs throughout the United States. Head Start exists to provide health, education, and promote self-sufficiency for children and families facing adversity. ​Find Andrea at her websiteFacebook & Instagram.

the feast of the presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On January 1, I announced a new blog series here at Joy Woven Deep. If you haven’t seen that post yet, I encourage you to check it out, then come on back and join in the journey.

Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ
(Also known as Candlemas)

Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ - www.joywovendeep.com

What day does it fall on? February 2 (40 days after Christmas)

What season are we in? Epiphany/Ordinary Time (January 6 to February 9, 2016)

What’s this day all about?

The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ celebrates the day that Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple in order to present Him to God according to the Mosaic Law. This account is recorded in Luke 2:22-40. In short, Mary and Joseph would have offered a sacrifice, and Mary would have undergone the purification ritual required after childbirth.

In the midst of their ceremonial proceedings, Mary and Joseph are interrupted by a man named Simeon whom the Holy Spirit had assured that he would meet the Messiah before his death. Simeon approaches Mary and Joseph and, among other things, tells them that Jesus will be a “light of revelation to the Gentiles.” Mary and Joseph are then approached by Anna, a prophetess, who gives thanks for Jesus and speaks about him “to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

So, how could we observe it?

Read the Daily Office texts here or via this app.

Read the Lectionary texts.

Pray “the Collect” for The Presentation.

Because Simeon proclaimed Jesus to be a “light of revelation,” candles and fire are common symbols of The Presentation. Light a candle in each room of your house while listening to Luke 2:22-40, or light a fire in your fireplace or fire pit and read Luke 2:22-40 by the fire.

In Mexico, The Presentation/Candlemas is often celebrated by preparing and eating tamales, a dish that takes a significant amount of time to prepare. Consider carving out time to engage a slow, meaningful, out-of-the-ordinary process, drawing a parallel to the sacred presentation day.

Take 15 minutes to jot down the 10 most precious things/relationships in your life. Ask the Spirit to guide you in considering how you can more fully present those loves to Him, entrusting them to Him entirely.

For parents: have you communally dedicated your children to the Lord with your church family? If not, consider speaking with a pastor, elder or bishop who can explain that process to you in the context of your congregation, and consider mirroring the faithfulness of Mary and Joseph by taking that step.

For kids:
– Discuss lights! What do they do for us? What are different types (candle, flashlight, lamp, lighthouse), and what purposes do they serve? How is Jesus our light?
– Learn John 8:12 by listening to The Light of the World (Seeds Family Worship) together.
– Coloring page

What’s it to me?

I am struck by Mary and Joseph’s faithfulness to the Mosaic Law, despite the absolutely bizarre circumstances in which they found themselves. A child born to a virgin, visions of angels, birth in a stable, yet Mary and Joseph remain steadfast in their posture of obedience to God. I am challenged to the core by their faithfulness. Even during their time at the temple, they are reminded that their Son was not given to them to be the fulfillment of all of their parental hopes and dreams, but to be the “one appointed for the rise and fall of many,” that a “sword will pierce” through their very souls as their Son’s life unfolds. Mary and Joseph call me toward a deeper faithfulness, an opening of hands in which I present to the Lord that which I am tempted to hold tightly. Simeon and Anna beckon me to look for Jesus, to trust that because God said He will come, He will come.

So, boil it down for me, would you?
The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ celebrates the 40th day after Christ’s birth in which he was brought to the temple in accordance with Mosaic Law. During the ceremony, Simeon and Anna approach Mary and Joseph, in recognition of the Christ-child and certainty that He will be the One to deliver Israel.

I would love for you to join the conversation. Would you add your voice to the conversation via blog post comments or on my Facebook page and share your thoughts on these questions with us?

What are your ideas for observing The Presentation?

Which components of exploring liturgy and the Christian calendar are you thinking about this week?

Is this series serving you well? What are you enjoying? How could it improve?

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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