A hard, horrifying, sad, good day.

Image: Gethsemane by P. Solomon Raj

Image: Gethsemane by P. Solomon Raj

Last night during Bible Circle we read Mark 14 and 15 and then passed a talking stone to share what stood out to us. A lot of us noticed the disciples leaving Jesus. Or the loneliness of Jesus in those hours leading up to his death—he faced his accusers alone, he was alone when he was whipped and mocked. Where was everyone? Why did they sleep when he asked them to pray?

He told Peter, James, and John, “I am so sad that I feel as if I am dying. Stay here and keep awake with me.” Mark 14:34 (CEV)

I feel that I have felt that kind of sadness before. I have been so sad that I wondered if I would die from it. And whatever it is that I felt, I’m sure Jesus felt it more. We find it hard to offer one another companionship in that kind of sadness. We find it hard to sit and wait. Perhaps we would rather come to our own defense (“I will never betray you!”) or offer solutions. 

I thought about how Jesus says of Mary Magdalene, “She who has been forgiven much, loves much.” Mary had sat in that kind of lonely sadness before. She had no delusions that it would not find her, or that bad things wouldn’t happen to them all. And being loved in her own sadness, called out of her lonely sadness by Jesus gave her the strength to stay: to watch his death, care for his body, and show up at his tomb. Maybe Peter, James, and John just hadn’t been tested enough yet. 

They would be, and later, that same ability shows up in them. 

And there Jesus was, steadfast in love while they all fumbled, chopped people’s ears off, ran away, swore they didn’t know him. He remained in love. They couldn’t take that away from him, though they stripped him of dignity and life. 

I find it so hard to keep my own brain from looping into a poor-me story. Sad and abandoned, lonely and misunderstood. Even in my beautiful, abundant, untouched-by-violence life, I find this hard. I feel the strength of what Jesus did, remaining in love, not blaming, not resisting. I want to lean into him in this moment. Allowing, accepting, being ready for the road God gave him to travel. I want to be like that. I also want to learn from him to sit with others in their sadness.

My heart is heavy with his death and his loneliness. And the Father in that moment bore deep and heavy suffering as well. The suffering of the Son, the grief of the Father. The love between them in that moment. For what? For a new creation of reconciliation, oneness between God and humanity.

At the end of the discussion last night, we remembered that this story would be the worst ever if not for the resurrection. Jesus endured for the joy set before him. I am about as crappy in centering myself, feeling badly for myself, and being defensive, as any of the disciples were. And yet we all are loved into a new reconciliation, a connectedness that contains a million seeds of possibility- things God and we can do and be together because of this suffering. 

What a day. A hard, horrifying, sad, good day.

Hands open.


I was watering the garden in the smoke yesterday, watching how quickly the water disappears into the dry earth. Our friend who is helping with watering asked me if she was doing it right on her days. “I just don’t understand why it looks like I’m not even watering.” 

“It’s just that dry,” I told her.

 A drop lands and practically sizzles. It sends a puff of dust. The sky is like a bruise. The sun simultaneously scorching and weak through the smoke.

I watered, and I thought, “That first rain is going to be like a miracle.” 

It takes going through a dry season here to really appreciate the rain. 

The sky opens up. Water comes from heaven. What? Is that really possible? 

In two minutes God accomplishes what I would have to spend eight hours to do with my puny little sprinklers. 

The first rain.

Fasting and feasting. Waiting for the promise. The Bible is packed full of references to this part of our life with God. We are in the now/not yet. We know rain will come, but we can’t control when it will give us those first drops. 

“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; 
His going out is as sure as the dawn;
He will come to us as the showers, 
As the spring rain that waters the earth.”  - Hosea 6:3

Sometimes when I am waiting for God, I get a little too invested in my own systems. I wrap my gnarled rat hands around the garden hose, insisting that my efforts are going to be AMAZING. It’s okay if you don’t want to come now, I tell him. I can do it all by myself. 

And then the rain comes. It drenches me, the garden hose, my gnarled rat hands and my face scrunched up from my efforts to be a tiny god. We are all soaked, instantly. Better to lay down on the ground, hands open, mouth open. 

That first rain is going to be like a miracle.

( A post by Rae- Cross posted at Journey Mama)

Shekina :: The Presence


Our name is a sort of Anglo-Hebraic mash up of the word that describes the presence of God where he dwells in the world. We say it “She-keen-ah,” just a little closer to the Hebrew pronounciation, “She-(c)hinah” with the fricative “h”.

So yeah, gets mispronounced by people who read it all the time. 

But I’ve been thinking about this name lately, and how audacious it is. 

How can we name a community after God’s presence? How dare we? As though he wants to come and hang out where we are telling ridiculous stories in the kitchen, dancing on the beach, or sweeping leaves off the dusty floors, again and again (and again)? 

What chutzpah. Frictate that as well, if you can. It’s fun.

Imagine a circle of skin-enclosed people, getting more wrinkly through the years, sitting and trying with all their little hearts to understand a little more of God, who he is as shown in his scriptures. They sing a few songs. There are people who have followed him for a long time, and people who have never prayed, or done this kind of thing before.

And then into their midst, a light, a flash of heat, a warmth, a sudden rush of tears. The most sparkly, desirable, hope-filled one walks into the circle, invisible to the human eye, and envelops all of them. Why? Because they are there and waiting and he loves them.

That’s how he is, when we ask. Generous with his presence. We don’t always feel it, but he is here.

“The divine secret of creation is the Shekinah, God’s indwelling; and the purpose of the Shekinah is to make the whole creation the house of God.” -Jürgen Moltmann

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.” Psalm 89: 15

“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” Psalm 84:10

I like Jesus

Tonight we had a beautiful Dinner and Bible Circle together with a few traveller friends, and read through John chapter 2. We each took turns sharing our thoughts on the chapter, ideas that stood out to us, questions. It was deep and fun and beautiful as these Tuesday nights usually are. In the chapter we read are two stories from the life of Jesus that I really love. Two stories that give me an image of Real Life Jesus. Not some ‘holier than thou’, soft-focus, walking-six-inches-off-the-ground Jesus; but a Real True Person.

The first story is about Jesus changing water into wine at a wedding, at the behest of his mother. As I understand it, Jewish weddings in this era could be week-long affairs with plenty of eating, drinking dancing and joy. Jesus changing water into wine as we noted in our circle, was probably not a life-saving miracle. No-one had their sight brought back, or their ability to walk restored to them. The party just went a little longer, and perhaps the host’s face was also saved. The fact that the wine Jesus created was the best that there had been at the party is such a great part of this story for me. This whole story gives me a vision of Jesus as a man who liked to party! He wasn’t scolding people for drinking so much, or being a wet blanket. He was helping the party kick on deeper into the night!

The second story is the one of Jesus driving out those who were selling animals for sacrifice in the Temple. The Message version of this story has Jesus chasing the animals and sellers out, telling them

“Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!” (John 2:16)

We discussed how the area that these people had set up their market was inside the Temple - most likely in the area called ‘The Court of the Gentiles’, the closest that non-Jewish people could get into the Temple, the closest they could get to the Holy Place, to worship God. This was meant to be a quiet area where people could contemplate and worship God, not a busy market, full of animals and buying and selling. In Mark’s version of this story, Jesus tells the people selling in the Temple

“Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:17)

This vision of Jesus is angry - angry about injustice, about outsiders not being welcomed in, about people excluding others from access to God, anger on behalf of the outsider. This is a righteous anger, a good clean anger. This is a Jesus who is emotional and deep and cares about those who want to step closer to God, and doesn’t want to see them excluded by those on the ‘inside’.

When we had a few minutes meditation during our Circle time, I imagined this man, the one who extended a party with really excellent wine, the man who overturned tables and threw coins to the ground in anger, chasing sheep away. I thought that this man is someone I would have liked to be around. I think he would have challenged me a lot - like some of my closest friends often do, in the best ways. I think I would not have understood many of the things he said. But still…I think I would have enjoyed being around this magnetic person who could enjoy a party, who wanted to welcome outsiders in towards God, and who got emotional and was a Real True Person. I thought, maybe for the first time - I know I love Jesus, but you know what? I also like him.

I like Jesus.

(A post by Ro.)

More than you can imagine.

Ro in the garden harvesting miraculous fruit that came from tiny seeds.

Ro in the garden harvesting miraculous fruit that came from tiny seeds.

We had a Devotion Circle on Monday about the kingdom of God. The realm of God, the reality of God. This shining thing that is just behind our eyes, that we sometimes can’t see in the trudge and dirt of everyday existence: the annoying interactions, the misunderstandings, the thousands of bridges we have to build to get to one another. 

We looked at three verses from Matthew 13, about the treasure hidden in a field, the mustard seed, and the yeast exploding in a whole lot of flour. 

As we went around the circle discussing each verse, here are the insights that emerged:

The examples Jesus used are hidden, tiny, not immediately apparent. They involve waiting or time, they are organic, beautiful. They need the right conditions (the seed needs soil, the yeast needs flour), but then they grow without effort. In the case of the seed and the yeast, they are alive and reproduce, they rise. They are common, ordinary examples, or dreamy ones, in the case of the treasure (who doesn’t want to find a treasure?). Each can become more than what it is, effortlessly. 

Dallas Willard says that Jesus was looking at a “God-bathed and God-permated world… in which God is continually at play and over which he continually rejoices.” (The Divine Conspiracy)

The kingdom is always right there, at hand, and we have the chance to step in, to engage in this reality where the tiniest of things burst into God-breathed life. Where small works or moments become much more than they could be, if God’s spirit was not breathing and moving and working around and behind them.

Watering the garden. Cooking meals. Offering money to someone in need. Inviting someone over. I don’t know that I could spend my life on all the little things that take up my time if I didn’t believe that each one is a tiny keyhole into something that God will breathe on and cause to live. Teaching kids. Making tea. A kiss on the forehead. Washing hair. Reading aloud for hours, and hours and hours.

Welcome to the reality of God, Jesus says. It’s right here, but you have to look for it. You have to remember that it is here before you. It isn’t transactional; you don’t get exactly what you put in. It is a whole plant sprouting out of the tiniest of seeds. It is so much more than you can even imagine.

(A post by Rae)

Adam Clarke's description of God.


I have been reading a book called Life Without Lack by Dallas Willard, and I came across this description of God, written by Adam Clarke, who was a 19th century Methodist theologian. I know, like all theologians, he was imperfect and skewed by his culture and worldview. But this description is pure beauty. God is:

“The eternal, independent, and self existent Being; the Being whose purposes and actions spring from himself, without foreign motive or influence; he who is absolute in dominion; the most pure, the most simple, the most spiritual of all essences; infinitely perfect; and eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing that he has made; illimitable in his immensity, inconceivable in his mode of existence, and indescribable in his essence; known fully only by himself, because infinite mind can only be fully comprehended by itself. In a word, a Being who, from his infinite wisdom, cannot err or be deceived, and from his infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just, and right, and kind.”

Just reading it fills me with peace.

Illimitable in his immensity.

Indescribable in his essence.

Infinite goodness.

Eternally just, right, and kind.

I think I’ll keep reading it slowly, all week.

Community is like an ox.


I love the birds near my house. They wake me up every morning with singing. Or squawking. Or crowing. They remind me that I am in a living world, that it flies, creeps, crawls, and sings with life. 

I have other reminders. The snails in the kitchen, the ants in a line along the wall. Mold on the baskets, moss in my motorbike seat. A little white dog, snores from my family members. Plants that need water, white flowers falling from the tree. All of this is life. Life that changes, grows, moves, bursts, buzzes, lifts, explodes. 

One of my favorite verses is “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” (Proverbs 14:4) It reminds me every day that messes are from life. Misunderstanding is from life. Life breeds, smears, and eats all the cheese. Life finds the chocolate stash. Life rains and wakes you up too early. Life accidentally steps on your new sprouting lettuce when it was playing a game with a lot of other chubby lives. 

Where there are no oxen, no life, no explosive, inconvenient growth, you do not have to buy new shoes or take the kids to the dentist, or apologize, or make amends, or try so hard to understand someone from another culture, or stretch your brain to empathize, or wait, or cook food day in and day out. 

An empty stall is clean and peaceful. And… empty. Nothing is happening, nothing is making a mess but nothing is coming back at the end of the day snorting and dancing its way into the stall, bringing in the sheaves, spilling its food, bringing stories and songs and a rich harvest.

Community is the ox, the life…it is better to have the ox. A good rule about life is that if it is messy, it probably means it is full of life. 

~ Rae

Holy and dearly loved.


I’ve been reading Colossians a lot lately. Over and over again. Today it’s this verse.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,

Deep sigh. Going into the day with a hug all around me, loved. The sparkle in a friend’s eye when they delight in me, the cries of my children when I arrive home after being away, an arm around my shoulders, God standing behind me- what does it mean to be holy and dearly loved? Set apart, not flailing in an impossible sea. Held. Unarmed because I am already protected.

Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Today I put on fisherman pants and one of Chinua’s T-shirts. Then those got wet on the motorbike when I drove through a rainstorm. So I changed to leggings and a top that used to be really beautiful but is now rather faded and a little torn. Clothe myself. Put on compassion. Pull it on, really think about it, really get ready for the day with kindness like a pair of pants, with humility like my glasses that I wouldn’t leave the house without. Gentleness. Patience. I’m ready for anything now. Ready to look around the world at my brothers and sisters and really see them.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 

This reminder carries the tiniest, gentlest bite. Forgive how? As the Lord forgave you. Bear with one another… how? Why? He bears with you and more. He listens when you are being a total jerk. He doesn’t walk away during your rants. So you can bear with one another. It’s possible. You just need to tap into being dearly loved…

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Love is the superhero cape that you tie on last, or the cloak that swirls around you, protecting you. When you truly love someone, you smile at their ridiculously beautiful tiny human ways. You love them, you love them, you love them. When you love you enter into the warm realms, the Kingdom of God, a place so rich with belonging that everything else fizzles and falls away.

And it doesn’t mean that the warm realms don’t have hard things, hard truths. Not even belonging can keep regular human consequences away. But God will be there, and we can do all things with him in our midst.

I pray that today you know you are holy and dearly loved.