Making Paper

Wood-shreds, cotton, flax, grass—
plant fibers beaten to expose
inner life, so old life will pass

into something new. Water-softened,
washed, mixed into slurry, ready to be
made and molded. And pressed.

Sheet bared to the sun, blessed
and made useful in the drying,
in the exposure to the Sun.

I have a memory; every crease remains,
intricate folds of experience
shaping origami me. He unfolds,

some parts tucked in so tightly
I tear in the unfolding. I tear
in every unfolding, but

His hand smoothes over.
Surrendered in the unfolding, I wait
and He writes.

Spirit-ink penetrates, bleeds
all the way through as nib makes
graceful strokes recording
flourishes of kindness, goodness,
grace on me.




(All photos are part of this set at my Flickr account.)

This is my first opportunity to use the 4000-cubic-inch Kelty backpack they gave me for my birthday. We are always curious about how much our packs weigh, so we weigh them before leaving the house. Charles’s, as usual, comes in heaviest (25% of his body weight), then Derek’s (22%), Titus’s (20%), mine (17%), and Byron’s (13%).


After a two-hour drive we begin at the Venable Trailhead, 9000 feet elevation. By tomorrow we will gain 3000 feet more. The last time we went backpacking at “the Sangres,” it was September, and the wildflowers were already dead. This time, they are at their peak. I wonder at the plants and animals in this wilderness. All creation really does sing His praise.

Of course I know the Columbine, our state flower . . .



. . . and the Aspen, which every Coloradan knows . . .

aspen leaf 7/2011


. . . but, ignorant of birds, bugs and botany, I don’t know what anything else is called up here. I can’t identify them, so these are anonymous beauties. What are the bushes we bushwhack through? What kind of bird makes that two-tone call? Whose are those faces greeting us from the trailside (“Welcome! Welcome to the mountains!”) Are those moth caterpillars that keep greeting us from midair?


tree and succulent-looking ground cover

white flower with bug













yellow flower with bugs


What is the name of those little trumpets heralding in unison, “The Lord is good! The Lord is good!”




I don’t know their names. I only know them by where they are; these wildflowers, this ground cover, those birds are the wonders I always see at “the Sangres”—the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.





I, too, want to be known by la sangre de Cristo—the blood of Christ. I want the world to identify me by what Jesus has done for me on the cross. I want to be an anonymous beauty, made beautiful by wearing Christ’s righteousness.

If Jesus is known by His scars,
may I be known by His blood, known
by la sangre de Cristo.

Father, I ask again, may it be no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

“He must increase; I must decrease.”
(John 3:30)

(Linking with Laura Boggess for…)

Pride Is Not a Cat

This may come as a surprise, but pride
is not the strutting Siamese
swishing a curl in her swaying tail.
No, she is not that, for pride
has many more lives than the nine
they give to a cat.

And I think I get
what the apostle meant
when he said I die

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

(Romans 8:12-13)


Enchanting Selflessness

For The High Calling book club:
Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
by Guy Kawasaki
Laura Boggess leads our May 9 discussion here.

I am not who I was. I remember when I was perfectly happy working in a dark lab all day with minimal human contact. Sometimes I would eat lunch at odd hours so that the lunch room would be empty. Later, when our first child was an infant, I turned down invitations to progressive dinners and cookie exchanges, content instead to sit with my baby and his fridge-magnet letters or turn page after page of The Count of Monte Cristo (unabridged, of course). In conversation, I told nothing about what was deep in myself.

Then came 2004. Something happened during that last pregnancy, a one-eighty shift in my emotional makeup. It wasn’t just a pregnancy thing; the change was permanent. I became what I called “the new me.”

I wanted girlfriends. I wanted relationships. In conversation, instead of holding back behind a black wall, I quickly opened up to others, revealing my deep feelings and thoughts.

I’m not sure if it really was a “new me,” or simply a me that was already there but denied all along.

Whatever it was, the change was intense, almost fierce. I wanted friends and went after them hard. In particular, I sought out older women to be a spiritual mentors.

It didn’t always work out. One was diagnosed with cancer shortly after we agreed to meet together. Another, after about a year of what I considered the closest female friendship I ever had so far, made an abrupt, unexplained, clean break. And those are just two examples.

I knew from the Bible itself that this kind of relationship was a good thing, so I wondered again and again, for years, Lord, why won’t You give me this kind of relationship?

It took several years before I realized that what I wanted, I wanted selfishly. Who is an older woman that can help me? Who is a friend that can bless me? Who will be that soul-companion and mentor for me? (I knew that, too, from the Bible: I ask and do not receive because I ask with the wrong motives.)

This help came from God:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

(Hebrews 13:17)

The relationships I was seeking should have mutual benefit. Their benefit: “let them do this with joy. My benefit: “they keep watch over your souls.” And if they don’t benefit, neither will I (“for this will be unprofitable for you”).

This sounds a lot like what Guy Kawasaki calls “enchantment”:

When you enchant people, your goal is not to make money from them or to get them to do what you want, but to fill them with great delight.

– Guy Kawasaki, Enchantment, page 2.

I was going about friendship all wrong. I had in mind only how I would benefit. But making friends is about mutual blessing.

Enchantment is not about getting your way solely for your own benefit. To the contrary, if you want enchantment to last, other people must benefit, too.

– Kawasaki, page 4.

I now have a standard prayer regarding relationships. I pray it whenever I’m about to have a coffee date or a phone call with a friend. I pray it for those who are dear to me. By God’s grace, I pray it with them (not me) in mind. The prayer is this:

Father, how can I be a better friend to ____? Father, how can I be a blessing to ____?

Sometimes, the answer is: step back. And I have to surrender to His will and accept that.

But, guess what? Turns out, when I approach friendships selflessly, the blessing on both ends is greater. It works. Selfless friendship is enchanting.

Easter Prerequisite

In shopping malls, men and women wear long fuzzy ears and a bunny mouth fixed in a static grin. Parents and grandparents with their children stand in line for a ten-dollar photo with the Easter Bunny. A shopping woman with a tasteful eye finds the perfect centerpiece. Mothers of girls buy matching dresses with bows.

Two brothers buy ice, beer and Pepsi for the cooler. A boy mows the lawn while his brother wipes down plastic adirondacks for the backyard picnic. Their aunt will hide plastic pastel eggs, and the children hope the ones they find will contain the chocolate Reese’s kind.

A couple buys whole cloves and pineapples for the ham preparation. Another prefers to reserve a ham from Honeybaked. One family makes tamales, another rolls twenty dozen lumpia for deep-frying later.

A family makes their traditional Resurrection Rolls, sealing bread dough around marshmallows and rolling them in cinnamon-sugar. The oven door opens, and sticky fingertips break open the rolls, hollow like the empty tomb and marshmallow-sweet on the bottom.

The preacher prepares his sermon. A youth pastor converts the Youth Annex into the annual “Walk of the Cross.” Congregants sign up for a time slot for this incredible experience. A thirty-voice choir rehearses, and rehearses, and rehearses. Men who will be disciples in an Easter morning drama memorize lines.

These are Easter preparations. Some call it Resurrection Day, and we prepare for the Resurrection! Hallelujah!

As I consider how we and people around us prepare for Easter, I recall a conversation I had with a fifth grader.

In 5th grade Sunday school, my husband and I taught Acts. “What happened to Eutychus while Paul gave a message?” I asked, to review the previous week’s chapter.

“He rose from the dead,” a student answered.

“Right. But before that?” I prompted.

But the student knew and insisted he was right. “He rose from the dead.” Then, adding more details to support the correctness of his answer: “Paul raised him from the dead after he fell out the window.”

I said, “Okay! That’s the answer I wanted: he died. He fell out a third-story window and died.”

The student insisted, “But my answer was right! I said he rose from the dead!”

“True, but I’m saying—in order to be raised from the dead, you have to die first.” (We have nit-picking exchanges like this too often.)

This is the conversation flashback I have as I write about what Easter means to me, and I meditate on the fact that only one thing is required for Easter. It’s not the fancy brunch, or the pretty clothes, or the chocolate eggs, or even the church services. The only requirement for Easter is death. To prepare for the Resurrection, you have to die first.

This was Jesus’ Easter preparation. The Lord had to die first. To get ready for His Resurrection Day, he lived a mystery, entering a mother’s womb. He emerged a babe, in the likeness of man, the very man He created in the likeness of God. He labored among us and dwelt among us. He wept and bled, and He suffered and died, for there is no Resurrection unless there is first death.

So will I prepare, then. I pull out my sheet of Death-to-Self verses and meditate on them. I pray, asking for help and grace to shed myself of all that He does not want in me.

There is no resurrection unless there is first death.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:
sexual immorality,
evil desires
and greed, which is idolatry . . .

But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these:
and filthy language from your lips.
Do not lie to each other,
since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

– Colossians 3:5,8-11

(Joining the communities hosted by Ann (Wednesday: “The Practice of Easter”) and Bonnie (Thursday: “Share what Easter means to you”). Click on their badges below to read more community posts on Easter!


Wounded Help (or What to Give Up When I Fast)

The one who frees prisoners,
who frees the oppressed,
who lightens burdens,
who clothes the needy,
who feeds the hungry,
who helps the troubled,

is himself wounded
and in need
of protection.

Weakness neither disqualifies nor exempts me from service.

I read about fasting. I read that the kind of fasting God desires is denying self to help others. The true fast is to give up Self and help the imprisoned, the oppressed, the hungry, the homeless. Here’s what I read:

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

(Isaiah 58:6-7)

The result? Here are some:

“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.”

(Isaiah 58:9)

Healed wounds. God’s protection.

This means that they were wounded to begin with! The helpers were themselves in need of protection! Helping others does not require being trouble-free myself. Even (or especially) from a position of weakness, I can help others.

This corrects two aspects of my erroneous thinking:

1. The “Poor Me” Syndrome. This is when I think, “I’m so weak myself. How can I possibly help someone else? There’s no way I can be a blessing to others.”

2. The Bitter, Give-to-Receive Sydrome. This is when I think, “I’m so weak myself—and people expect me to help others? They should be the ones helping me!”

The Isaiah passage helps eliminate both mindsets. Weakness neither disqualifies nor exempts me from giving help. God not only empowers me to help when I am weak, He also expects me to help when I am weak. And in both cases, it’s by His guidance and strength:

Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.

(Isaiah 58:10-11)

A true fast must involve giving up Self. Who else but the selfless can serve others in the midst of their own woundedness and weakness?

Father, help me be selfless so that it is truly not I who live, but Christ in me. Give me godly self-unconsciousness. Help me to love.