Friday, December 9, 2011


I wonder what it was that made Mary highly favored by God to be the mother of His Son, to hold him when he cried, to feed him, to laugh with him, to play with him, to nurture him and love him the way no one else in all the history of the universe ever would. I wonder what she was like and I wonder what it was that made her how she was. I wonder if as a kid she got made fun of. I wonder if even before this scandalous event she was already a bit of an outcast in her village. I wonder if she tripped and people laughed as she dusted off her robe. I wonder if she was really as immaculately beautiful as all the movies and paintings make her out to be. I wonder if maybe she was plain. I wonder if she was betrothed to such an older man because nobody else would have her. I wonder what kind of loss and pain she knew. I wonder what she talked to God about as she went about her daily work. She called herself humble, and humility always comes with a story. And part of me wonders if by humble, she really means lonely and scared sometimes, but full of trust. I wonder if in the face of fear and hurt and other things a human girl would know, she leaned the entire weight of her inner being into the kingdom of God and understood that things were simply not at they seemed.

What was it that made her so irresistibly beautiful to God. I can just imagine His pulsing heart over her thinking, “Yes, this is her, this is the one. This is the one who bends my heart to breaking with love. Her faith is irresistible to me. This is the one I want to honor more than any other woman on earth.” I think of God’s track record throughout the Bible, the people that he likes to honor, and they are real people who make really big mistakes and experience heartache and confusion, but they say, “Yes.”

And this, I would argue, is the most brave, beautiful, and powerful “yes” there ever was, simply:

“I am the Lord's servant. Let it be unto me according to your word.”

This is not the statement of a weak and timid girl. This is the statement of a warrior, of someone who knows who they are. I imagine her head reeling with confusion, her heart battling up against her saying, “Don’t believe it. This is simply too good to be true. Who do you think you are?” A sentiment quite often expressed by the greatest people of faith throughout the Bible after being confronted with the voice of the Lord. She seemed more concerned with logistics of pregnancy than with her worthiness. She sat there in the presence of the Angel Gabriel, her heart stood up and shook off the fear and chose to believe. She received. And interestingly, this is one of the first things that her cousin Elizabeth says to her when she comes to visit, “Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises over her.”

I have always assumed (and perhaps even been taught) that it was her perfect innate purity that qualified her. But she was a human and I find myself wondering if it was really more to bring favor in a place of lack than it was for Jesus to be raised by a person who was pretty darn close to perfect, as if the King of Heaven needed human help to be the exact image of God. I imagine the Father and the Holy Spirit watching them together, those sweet moments between mother and child, Jesus wrapping his chubby little arms around Mary's neck, planting a kiss on her cheek, and her heart nearly bursting with joy. Arms that were empty are full, a heart that was downcast rejoices. That just seems like the Lord to me, that He would entrust his son to a girl who despite all of her earthly circumstances, knew her place as daughter. Yes, I imagine them watching from heaven, hearts breaking forth like the sun, fully pleased with this arrangement.

Luke 1

“My soul glorifies the Lord 

47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 

48 for he has been mindful 

of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed, 

49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

 holy is his name. 
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,

 from generation to generation. 

51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

 he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones

 but has lifted up the humble. 

53 He has filled the hungry with good things

 but has sent the rich away empty. 

54 He has helped his servant Israel,

 remembering to be merciful 

55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,

 just as he promised our ancestors.”

Friday, December 2, 2011


I was told recently during a conversation about transplanting, that you should move to people, not to place. This statement keeps peeking itself around random corners here in Kansas City, winking at me with a sneaky little twinkle in its eye; here in middle America, here where the land is flat and one camps on mowed grass with a big black plastic tube running through the campsite. Here. Kansas City.

I have lived in a lot of different places, a lot. A lot of epically beautiful places actually. I could regale tales for endless hours of things my eyes have beheld from Thetis Island, British Columbia to Novgorod, Russia. You would hardly believe me. You would hardly even believe the places that I have seen, the mountains, the stars, the rivers, the oceans, the glacier headwaters, the palaces, the paintings. I nearly lose my breath just thinking about it because beauty is not something I take for granted. There is much that I do take for granted, much that I squander, but beauty is not one of them, not for one single second. I live for it. I long for it. And the Lord has shown me so much of it. He has held me and fed me on the movement of water. And oh how I needed it after growing up in inner-city America, nearly swallowed whole by decay and ugliness. I needed it more than I could have ever known. He takes such good care of me. I hear His voice so clearly in those places. He restores my soul. His presence is free, easy, and uninhibited by the hospitality of beauty. And then I try to make it my home. My heart hovers and searches for a beautiful place to plant my roots and be unmoved, but it finds none.

Sometimes I feel like the baby Robin in a children’s book I have read a nearly infinite amount of times to the various children of my life. A bird pops out of its egg while its mom is out getting food. It hops around from animal to animal asking, “Are you my mother?” to which they replay, “No silly, I’m not you’re your mother, I am a cat, etc.” And then theres me, hopping around from place to place asking, “Are you my home?” “No silly, I’m not your home, I’m just a place.” I have tried to make them all my home, but they are not.

And so, for now, here, Kansas City is my home. My eyes roam the streets looking for a beautiful place to rest their gaze, and they are not disappointed. No, there are breathtaking landscapes in unsuspecting places. I find myself ushered into the easy presence of God, like a flowing river, by the interior landscapes of the extraordinary people around me. And my prayer is that all the beauty I have seen would become apart of me, that I can open my chest cavity and out will pour the Moyie River and you will also know what Gods voice sounds like while standing in its mighty current. After all, creation is good, but the image of God in humanity is very good.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Thanks to my dear friend Steph Gehring for posting this on her blog.

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said: Abba, as much as I am able I practice a small rule, a little fasting, some prayer and meditation, and remain quiet, and as much as possible I keep my thoughts clean. What else should I do? Then the old man stood up and stretched out his hands toward heaven, and his fingers became like ten torches of flame. And he said: If you wish, you can become all flame.

[From Desert Wisdom, translated by Yushi Nomura]

Friday, November 25, 2011

Once Upon a Time

(Warning: first episode spoiler alert)

I realize its still a bit early to tell how it will hold up, but I can’t help myself, it’s a fairy tale, and aside from some of the questionable costumes I am fascinated with the new show Once Upon a Time on abc. The premise of this show is that through an evil curse, an array of fairy tale characters have been sentenced to life on earth -where there are no happy endings. They completely forget who it is they are and they go about their every day lives unaware that they are extraordinary. Through some sort of secret portal in a magical tree, Snow White and Prince Charming’s infant daughter is saved from the curse but separated from her family. She grows up on earth as an orphan, going from foster home to foster home with no sense of who she is, no sense of where she has come from or where she belongs. As a teenager she gives up a son who is then adopted by the evil queen, i.e. the mayor of Storybrook, the town on earth where they have been banished. He’s the only one who knows the truth, who knows everyone’s real identity and is adorably confidant that there is hope. The story weaves in and out of fairly tale land and life on earth. There are all kinds of other details that I won’t get into, but as we all know, every curse has its loophole, and it is prophesied that on her 28th birthday, Snow White’s daughter will return and break the curse. Mmm…goosebumps. I sure do love broken curses. I can hardly wait.

(A few other things I love - that heroines are now 28 rather than 16 and Snow White kicks butt as a super-tough-animal-skin-wearing forest dweller.)

I am so glad that the creators of LOST are taking another attempt at removing the dreary and deceiving veil of normalcy. I’m not sure they fully succeeded in their first attempt, but if I were to try and summarize what it is they are after, whether they know it or not, its this: that life is epic beyond comprehension, that the mundane is a sneaky disguise for extraordinary, that when the fog of reality is lifted, a vast and magical kingdom lays before us, and the role that we play in the story is absolutely pivotal.

I was back in Milwaukee a few weeks ago visiting family. This past trip my five-year-old nephew Remy was particularly delightful. I could practically see with my very eyes his inner landscape expanding, growing and moving, forming new thoughts and feelings. He looked at me differently. He understood the temporal nature of my visit and he just wanted to be near me. Towards the end of my visit he was deeply conflicted about playing in the backyard with his neighborhood friends or sitting on my lap. He bounced around outside and peeked in the door every couple minutes to make sure I was still there, running in to tell me a story or crawl up in my lap for a minute. I could hear him outside telling his friends stories about me as if I was some sort of a magical fairy. My heart actually aches with joy just thinking about it. At one point I picked him up and swung him around and plopped him back down on the floor. His big eyes sparkled and his little heart overflowed. He went over to the counter, grabbed a tiny little thing and said “This is fo you.” He drops in my hand a little silver charm. Dazzled, I thought to myself, “This is way too good to be true. It’s a little castle. Surely it belongs to someone and is not really his to give away.” My sister-in-law looked at him seriously and said slowly and calmly, “Remy, do you really want to give this to Auntie Katie?” He didn’t think twice. He didn’t even flinch, “Yea!” He had found it on the ground a few weeks earlier. It was his treasured possession. It had hardly left his hand or pocket. He always knew exactly where it was, and he gave it to me.

So, here I am, a month later, still starry eyed as I look at this tiny little wonder with its intricate trellises and spires, towers and bridges. Be still my heart. And what I love more than this charm is the way that God knows my language, the way that this little treasure was given to me by the sweet and generous heart of someone who delights me to the core of my being, and the way that this thing is not just a thing, but it is the very breath of God clearing the fog of forgetfulness. It is a reminder of my secret hidden identity. I am adopted by a King, betrothed to a Prince, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit who clothes me in otherworldly garments by the song of His heart. Bold, I know, but true. Painfully difficult to believe some days, but He is so faithful and patient to remind me, so jealous and determined that I remember who I really am.

Friday, May 27, 2011


The whole thing about inheritances is that they increase. Investments are made and the small offering of one man can become a fortune for his children. Its all rather confusing to me, the facts and figures, but I do know that one way or another money begets money if it is invested wisely. And likewise, I know that when you plant one something in the ground, it produces the seeds for hundreds of somethings. It is a concept so close to the Fathers heart. He dreamed it up. He speaks of it relentlessly. It points to His kingdom. He just really likes for things to increase, and he likes to give things away that we have neither earned, nor do we deserve. Its topsy-turvy, upside-down, and completely, dazzlingly wonderful.

And I am lucky enough to have gotten a real live taste of this on earth, a dad who's love still baffles me by its undeserved unconditional-ness. A dad who would drop everything to look for my missing sock and whistle about it while I raged about the house like a thunder storm. A dad who took great pleasure in saving everything to take us on extravagant, adventurous vacations when in everyday life we didn't have two nickels to to rub together. A dad who was patient and present. A dad who has fathered not only me and my three brothers, but hundreds and hundreds of the most dejected and outcast of this world. A dad who for no apparent reason was proud to have me as a daughter. (And trust me, there were years when there was absolutely no apparent reason.)

But back to inheritance: What my (formerly) hippy, buddhist dad invested one summer evening while driving through the fields of Vermont was himself, into the heart Jesus. A flock of birds took off with it to the heavens and there it lives, gaining significant interest daily. And here I am, the beneficiary, rich beyond my wildest dreams, swimming around in an absolutely limitless fortune. My earthly treasures may be meager, but I have inherited the entire Kingdom of Heaven, and this is more real to me than the very ground I stand on. So, I think its pretty safe to say that I don't need no trust fund. I believe this will do just fine. Thanks dad. And by the grace of God I will invest it as generously, selflessly, and creatively as you have, and my children will run positively wild with the freedom.

Happy Fathers Day! I love you!

"I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me, 'The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly." Joshua 14:8-9

Friday, May 13, 2011

Yes, I would like to be a river.

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Mom's Hands

Sometimes I look down at my hands and see my moms. Its strange and comforting. Her hands are so deeply familiar, her fingers, the shape of her nail beds, the simple gold hand-forged wedding band. I have watched them knead dough, cut out paper dolls, and turn the pages of Little Women as I lay in bed with her as a child. Hundreds of times I have watched them roll out her famous crust for the best apple pie in the world. I have watched them shuffle scrabble letters, take a whack with a wooden spoon, fold in prayer, and write sermons. I have seen them waving down the street in the ghetto of Milwaukee as she chased down the kids who stole my brothers bike out from under him. (They dropped it and ran by the way.) I have seen them make dinner for a house full of inner city teenagers and teach lonely international housewives how to make apple sauce. They are truly remarkable hands.

My mom and I don't look anything alike. In fact, we are nothing alike. She has dark straight hair and mine is blond and untamable. She's pragmatic and I'm romantic. She lives fully in the moment and I'm a bit of a dreamer. We can not recognize anything of ourselves in the other and have sufficiently wounded eachother in trying. But I have her hands, and I am thankful. Our hands move quickly and efficiently and I look down and I know who I am. And I am so thankful that we should walk this side of heaven together as mother and daughter, sisters, and friends, forming and sharpening each other into the likeness of our Creator. "And he saw that it was good."

I love my mom's hands.