three red birds

Note: this was first published on 2/2/12. It remains just as true today. And I’m reposting it because of the beautiful little painting of a barn I just added to my barn painting collection, with three red birds.

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Before I knew what life could do to a person . . . before I knew what had been done to me . . . I felt peace. I remember it, whole and holy, round and full, like the weight of a newborn infant in a mothers arms.

It was the sort of peace that comes from a youth undented and undaunted by the hammers of hurt.

The sort of peace that lives in a heart that has not yet realized people really are capable of evil . . . of lies . . . of betrayal . . . of stealing innocence, no matter how old we are when someone snuffs the last piece of us out.

Holed out, hollowed and spent, fear fills us first.

Unless we believe God and His promise to pour His Holy Spirit into us.

Unless we believe His promise to never leave us alone.

Only then, by releasing the clutch of our unbelief, can we let fear, unfettered, flee from our hearts.

The other day, I realized the depths of my unbelief as fear and shame overwhelmed me once again. I ran down a quiet path, spindly brush, naked trees and silence surrounding me.

Help.

Me.

Overcome.

And then, unrequested and unrehearsed, the birds appeared.

Bright, red cardinals. Chests bursting and fat with downy, winter feathers.

First one.

Then a second.

Then a third.

Three cardinals stained red flew wild across my path. And I remembered God has something important to say when He says it in threes.

died for you, He said.

died for you, He said.

I died for you, He said.

So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose?

If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?

And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us.

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture . . . We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

Romans 8:31-39 (TMV)

The story behind the theme of my 2019 release: Then Sings My Soul

I think one of God’s favorite things to do is to make and shape people. Of course I can’t speak for Him, but the works of God’s hands are mentioned not infrequently throughout the Bible, how God sculpts the land and the heart, and how He creates artists, too.

Moses talks about an artisan named Bezalel who may have been one of the earliest lapidarists.  Exodus 31:5 (NLT) reads, “[Bezalel] is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!”

And in Isaiah 64:8 (NLT) we read, “And yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.”

Jakob, the main protagonist in Then Sings My Soul, is a lapidarist–one who works with and fashions stones and gems. Jakob’s father (Josef) was a lapidarist, too.

This is a piece of raw aquamarine, the sort of stone Josef  would have worked with and passed on to Jakob in the story.

I used the trade and theme of lapidary in this novel because my grandfather was a lapidarist, too. In fact, he actually made the stone on the cover of the novel, and you can read more about that providential story in the afterwords in the back of the novel.

As a special treat for you today, here are the actual diagrams and notes my grandfather used to make this stone:

When you read Then Sings My Soul, I think you’ll discover why the theme of lapidary lends itself so well to Jakob and his daughter, Nel. They both start out pretty rough, living in ways not everyone would approve of. But that doesn’t mean God doesn’t see the beauty He knows they can become.

The same story can be yours, friend. If you feel dirty and rough, unnoticed, worthless…God sees the new and clean, the priceless and sparkling person He is making you to be.

The work a lapidarist does on a stone is harsh at times. There are cuts and chisels, chunks hacked off and angles shorn. But in the eye of the Lapidarist, all these steps are necessary.

More than that, as He works, the Lapidarist holds you in His hand and never lets go.

What about you? 

Do you have places in your life that need polished? 

Do you wonder where God is in the midst of your journey?

An open poem to survivors: hope has a name

Above the fray.

Above the screaming.

Above the hurt, the fear, the unknown, the uncontrollable, the unattainable, the shame, the injustice, the loneliness, the brokenness, the pain, the shame, the voicelessness, the powerlessness, the rage and the outrage, the frustration, the desperation.

*HOPE*

has a name.

One name above all names.

It’s not a vote or a man.

Not a woman or a stand.

Not a charge.

Not a time.

*HOPE*

Has a name.

A name above all names.

A word.

THE word.

One that raises the dead and heals the wounds and salves the infections and opens the eyes and stops the bleeding and calms the seas.

*HOPE*

Has a name.

One name.

One.

Name.

JESUS.