Poetry & Words

“What Does Mercy Mean?” How to Answer a Child’s Question

What Does Mercy Mean? How to Answer a Child's Question | How can I explain to a three year-old child the concept of mercy? I don't feel like I can reduce these mysteries to a sentence.  I'm worried I'll go wrong somehow.

“Do you love Bible?” She looks up at me with those big eyes of hers. “And does Papa love Bible too? Because I love it. So much.” It’s spontaneous, this declaration of hers. She keeps talking, looking up at me as she pushes her unruly honey-colored hair out of her face. “Where’s God now?” “What is a soul?” “What is mercy? Read more Bible, mumma.”

We just returned from seeing Fernando Ortega in concert, and she is humming the songs as she asks me these questions. “Why,” she asks earnestly, “Why did dat man say dat song about da fire of angels is sad? Why is it sad, mumma?”

I sing to myself before I answer. I think of all the nights I fell asleep with this melody in my soul:

“I never knew the dusk could seem so sad,
an empty aching in my soul.
In this bright hour I speak your name in the wind,
the shining world outlasts us all.

Even the mountains seem to know you’re gone,
the foothills shimmer where they stand.
The sky is still and much too beautiful,
and I am missing you again.

Lift me over the San Gabriels, leaning into the southern sky.
The foothills burning in the afterglow, an angel fire passing by…”
[Fernando Ortega, Angel Fire]

At three, her tender heart knows nothing of the aching in one’s soul. “It is sad, baby, but it’s beautiful too, though, isn’t it, that song?” I can feel the tears begin to burn. How can I untangle these questions, when even I don’t understand why people slip away and leave behind the empty foothills, burning in the light?

How can I explain to a three year-old the concept of mercy, when I still can’t wrap my head around the marvel of it all?

And what is this intangible thing inside me, this soul of mine?

She stands in front of me, eagerly, waiting for answers.

What Does Mercy Mean? How to Answer a Child's Question

I don’t feel like I can reduce these mysteries to a sentence.  I’m worried I’ll go wrong somehow. But I know Jesus told us to learn what mercy means [1]. And I know love and mercy is how everything — all of this, this big, overgrown mess of earth and humanity — is made whole. Death is swallowed up[2], and the old system of law is fulfilled [3, 4].

So I tell her what I know. I tell her about His love.

My words aren’t perfect, but it doesn’t matter.

“We must try to speak of His love. All Christians have tried but none has ever done it very well. I can no more do justice to that awesome and wonder-filled theme than a child can grasp a star. Still by reaching toward the star the child may call attention to it and even indicate the direction one must look to see it. So as I stretch my heart toward the high shining love of God someone who has not before known about it may be encouraged to look up and have hope.” [A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy]

And when it comes right down to it, it’s that high shining love and mercy He crowns us with [5], not rules. The rules can never redeem, transform, make whole. And so I point her to that great Love, toward Him, and I take her hand as we run toward the rain.

…[she] grew up in that Florida rain
They were carried along like leaves on a river of faith
They’d float
All the way home…
And they walked in the rain of His mercy
Let it soak them down to the bone
And they splashed in its puddles
And danced in its streams as they’d go
And, oh, they walked in the rain of His mercy
All the way home….”
[Andrew Peterson, All the Way Home]

What Does Mercy Mean? How to Answer a Child's Question

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Inspiration, Life in Photos, Poetry & Words

POETRY & WORDS :: I write because

I write, sometimes, because of things I see and hear,
and other times, I write because the sound is muffled and my vision is blurred,
but mostly, I write because (the veil is still there,
the glass is still dim,
He has not yet come)
and I want to see clearly.

It's the world as best as I remember it
I write because...

“Can a man see God face to face and live?

Can I not see an eclipse better through a pinhole in a paper than without it?

We can’t so much see light as we can see things because of it. So I do not meet God in a vacuum — I meet Him in the world He has provided for me to meet Him in — in a world of events and of places, of history (time and space), in a world of lives of people and their records of their encounters.

I meet God in this world — in the world of these things…

…and this is the world as best as I can remember it.”
-Rich Mullins

Poetry & Words

POETRY & WORDS :: The thing about life is how fragile it is

The thing about life is how fragile it is

The thing about life is how fragile it is.

We don’t realize it.

We’re too busy pumping up humanity and climbing Everest and launching ourselves into orbit. We collect accolades and list our achievements and add antennas atop towers in an effort to make it all seem bigger, better, taller than it is. We love the stories that are larger than our collective humanity, the people who muster brute strength to do the one thing that no one else can even imagine.

We’re obsessed with strength.

We’re fascinated by human success. We can form armies, we can stop rivers. We’re so busy being strong, we sometimes forget that for all our sky-high buildings and conquered Everests and technological masterpieces, we can’t stop a cell from marching.

We can’t push oxygen where it needs to go. We’re no life-givers.

And in these moments when our frailty becomes the largest thing in the room, we see. We see the veil, thinner than we ever knew it could be. We see the Milky Way and we see the oceans and we see our souls and we see the sky as a canopy over us.

And the wind rushes in, and the curtain lifts up for one ethereal moment and then falls — and we gain a glimpse, and know that in all our trembling bravery and brawn, it was always His hand holding us up.

And we cling to that.

Inspiration, Life in Photos, Poetry & Words

POETRY & WORDS :: You Have A Voice. Use It.

Since I was a little girl and first began to know of wrongs, I have been burdened. I look around me, I listen, I see, and I am weighted down.

There is so much need, so much injustice, so many faces that stare back at me from across the world, so much I cannot do.

But then I hear a voice, speaking to me, saying:

You have a voice.

Use it.

Else you are like a camera which does not see…

You have a voice. Use it.

…a strap which does not carry…

1000 px - 4 - You have a voice. Use it

…instruments which do not write…

You have a voice. Use it.

…stars which do not shine light.

You have a voice. Use it.

Speak up for those who are voiceless, those who cannot tell their story.

They have a story waiting to be told.

Tell it.

Speak.

Do not always remain silent.

“Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow. “-Isaiah 1:17

“For if you remain silent at this time … you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”-Esther 4:14

How will you use your voice today?

Poetry & Words

POETRY & WORDS :: Rivers of Light

August 2013 - Aveline's tangled hair looking out window in morning lightThere’s something so pure about the morning light. It falls through the sky in a way it does no other time of the day, it falls and dances and pulls the air around it into gossamer waves. The early hours pull and push and twist the light into an opaque filter that infuses the morning in possibility. Awash in new mercies, morning light stands up  strong against uncertainty and tugs my eyes and heart upward, to the Light, to the Giver of light, to the Hope of all living things.

Jobs, plans, circumstances — these offer no promise of constancy, but Jesus does. When the future looks as temporary as words etched into sand at high tide, when faced with uncertainty, there is a Rock. There is an Anchor.

And there is morning light, a tiny glimpse of light eternal, to spring up each day and remind us all that He is constant, He is never-changing, He is rivers of light.

“You’re in a cosmos
star-flung with constellations by God,
A world God wakes up each morning
and puts to bed each night.
God dips water from the ocean
and gives the land a drink.
God, God-revealed, does all this.”
-Amos 5:8, The Message translation

Poetry & Words

WRITING & WORDS :: I don’t have to be able to see clearly for it to be beautiful

She was desperate to look outside. She pulled at the shades, tangled herself in the curtains, and whined, impatiently dancing on her tiptoes.

I understood. I understand.

I swept the curtains aside and tied the gauzy fabric into a loose knot. Tugging the braided cord downward, we watched as the slats slid upward, pouring sunshine over us.

She was instantly silent, instantly still.

She rested her fingertips on the wooden sill, the wooden sill which has seen more tenants than just us. It’s buried in coat after coat of sticky white paint, and not all of them had been evenly applied. She doesn’t notice this.
Toddler looking out of apartment window - Black and white photo via Oaxacaborn dot comShe is still, transfixed, mesmerized by what’s beyond those two panes of glass.

For a moment I feel sorry for her. She looks at the grass and barely knows it beyond something that’s labeled “Keep Off”, “Pesticides Applied mm/dd/yy”, “Clean up After Your Pet”.

But this does not trouble her. She is quiet and calm, lost in her own little world of thoughts.

In this moment, I feel that her world is much deeper than I can begin to imagine.

She places her small hand on my arm, and my precarious camera-toting, nearly-kneeling balance is lost. She pats my arm reassuringly, and looks up at me from her squatting position.

I click the camera button, and glance at the screen.Toddler in Black and White - via Oaxacaborn dot comYou can’t really see her face clearly.

And then it hits me. That’s ok. I don’t have to be able to see clearly for it to be beautiful. I don’t have to have a perfect exposure, a perfect view.

I just have to be here — here in this quiet moment, kneeling in front of the low window with my daughter, quietly watching the trees and the sky, washed in His redemptive Grace and Peace. Here in gratitude, here in thankfulness, here in the kind of perfection that I can’t create, but can receive, with arms open wide and eyes fixed on my  great and wonderful God.

My arms of full of blessings; my heart is full of peace.

“So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures. … In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.” -James 1:17+, the Message version

Poetry & Words

WRITING & WORDS :: Toward the sunrise // Toward the setting of the sun

The sky keeps changing. The morning’s quiet clouds, marching steadily along for hours, finally collapse under the weight of the gathered rain and spill out over the sidewalk and leaves, over the roofs and birds, over the highways and signs, and over our shoulders.

Aveline laughs.

I sigh and pull the tripod and camera back inside, closing the green front door behind us.

Aveline’s face falls.  She looks up at me, tugging at my jeans. “Outside? Outside? Outside?” I love the way she pronounces the ou in “out”. She has a Californian accent that makes me proud and buoys hope in my soul.

On Sunday morning, Josiah read Joshua 1 aloud, “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.

I love that Great Sea toward the setting of the sun. I love how my Lord tells me, “only be strong and courageous.”. Four times in this chapter, “be strong and courageous.” I love how He gives me the strength I need to be strong.

The sound of the rain against the windows stops, and we go back outside to walk on this green, Eastern land God’s given us now, “beyond Jordan, toward the sunrise.”

Life in Photos, Poetry & Words

God led us to this oasis (August Photo Challenge: Day 1)

It’s AUGUST. I don’t know how something like that could have happened. Funny, the chatter today about Fall being just around the corner. It sure doesn’t feel that way here. The crickets’ dusk song hasn’t slowed; one chirp blends into the next with scarcely any time at all elapsed in between. The humid air is thick and unforgiving, holding up so much water it’s a wonder the clouds don’t come crashing down around our feet. My toenails are brightly painted orange – neon, not autumnal; more like sherbet than like maple leaves. The inside of the car is scorching, and the seats burn our summer legs as we climb in.

This is not the crunchy and dry California summer. This is not the verdant green, sweatshirt-clad Midwest summer. But this is our summer. Our summer, and we are peaceful. God led us to this oasis, this palm-tree laden land where our table is filled with food, where the pool is clean and refreshing and ours to enjoy, where the row of windows in the living room look out over roads and into the sky, and not into other windows.

Sometimes, it’s hard to see that this is an oasis. Our families are thousands of miles away. I do not have friends here to laugh with, friends to share a summer afternoon with. I get lost trying to find simple places like the post office. The street signs are all unfamiliar. It is hard, sometimes. Hard to be so far away from what used to be home.

But mostly, somehow, I am peaceful.

God saw what was going on with Israel. God understood. (Exodus 2:25 MSG)

Self portrait - leather couch, sheepskin, sitting on floor - Photo a Day - August Photo Challenge

Image: Day One (Self Portrait) of the August Photo Challenge.