Of Baling Wire and Tailpipes

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I journeyed down the frozen mountain to lend my paper wrangling skills to our local charity children’s gift program, enjoying the camaraderie of my Angel Friend Sister “J”, and wrapping mounds of presents destined for needy families.  It was a splendid afternoon, the kind that Hallmark movies like to pan to at the beginning scenes of movies about little miracles, and Christmas encounters. I was basking in the glow when I headed out on old Hwy 12, going through the list in my head of the last minute necessities to make Christmas Day dinner a success…when I heard it.  That screeching, scraping, dragging sound that said my tailpipe had come loose and was clinging by a wire to the main frame.

I whipped into the closest turn off, which happened to be our local cemetery and examined the damage. Sure enough….it was the tail pipe…dragging on the ground.  Frustration changed my rosey glow to a darker shade of red when I picked up the phone and dialed the Gardener. He was working way out of town and was unable to be my champion, but with patient directions instructed me on how to wire it up with baling wire to get me home.  Now, did I know of anyone who could bring me baling wire on a cold Thursday before Christmas, afternoon?.

Baling wire.  From deep inside I heard an old, familiar chuckle.  The kind that came with piercing blue eyes that laughed and danced with the telling of a good joke.  A smile broke through my lips as I realized where I was.  The cemetery, literally a stone’s throw away from Mom and Dad’s resting place.  I imagined the conversation:

“Hey Ma, look, the kid needs baling wire.  Didn’t I always tell her not to go anywhere without it?”

“Yes, Bunk…you were right…when will she ever learn….”

I laughed out loud as I dialed the phone to my beautiful Sister J.

” Hello!” Came her friendly, never too busy to talk to a friend voice.

“Want to come rescue me?”  I asked, still laughing at the predicament of no baling wire to be found in my car.

“I would love to come rescue you…..where are you?”

I laughed as I said, “the cemetery…could you bring some baling wire and cutters?”

“Oh My God….are you ok? Was the response followed by….”We are on our way”

I sat in the stillness of the afternoon, and felt my Dad’s arm around my shoulder, and the weight of his laughter filled rebuke.  “Don’t leave home without it!”

“Oh Daddy.  Merry Christmas.  I miss you. I hear you…I get it, thanks for the gift.  I won’t leave home without it. “

 

 

 

Fox Holes

The Light-Bringer and the Brown-Eyed Girl were cold.  The Gardener and I braved the snowy river road saw in hand to cut them a jog of wood.  It was in the midst of splitting and stacking, teaching the Brown-Eyed Girl the way to load a pick up and not lose a stick that we remembered the fox holes.

My Daddy was always about getin’ wood.  Winter we scouted while looking for the perfect Christmas tree, Summer we spent weekend after weekend hauling in the loads to feed the ole Blaze King wood stove that would burn non stop by the first week of October.  The Fall was considered a success if the wood shed was perfectly stacked floor to ceiling with just the right length of pieces to make the armloads we carried in worth the effort.  He taught all of us kids the secret of a well stacked cord of wood:  “No fox holes.  You stack each cord with each piece fitting snugly, no gaps for the ‘foxes’ to get through and your pile will stand sturdy from the bottom to the top.”

Song of Solomon 2:15 Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.”

I thought of how easy it is in relationships to leave gaps-fox holes,  where the enemy can get in and destroy love, by being sloppy or inattentive to the ones we love.  It struck me how important it is to construct defenses of love around  my marriage and friendships, that leaves no openings  for the foxes of offense, envy, jealousy, pride, selfish ambition, striving, wrath, gossip, greed, perversion, lust to enter and destroy the vineyard of my heart.

We loaded the black truck to the top, and sent them home with the tools for heat.  I began to pray that the lesson of the fox holes would find it’s way into their heart, and that love would bloom, and grow in safety and they would discover for themselves the places where the foxes had entered, and catch them and build for their hearts a place of peace.  I gazed at the Gardener and wondered at our own wall, lovingly holding his hand back up the river road I poked around the walls of my heart, and looked for foxes.

 

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I Pledge Allegiance-

I pledge allegiance to the Lord

Who gave his life for mine,

Who receives the sinner’s broken plea

And makes his face to shine.

I pledge allegiance, to the Lord

Who lives to intercede,

Who shields the smoldering, flaxen heart

Not breaking the bruised reed.

I pledge allegiance to the Lord

The King of Justice, Truth and Love,

Who calls the weary to find their rest

Declaring us Beloved.

I pledge allegiance to the Lord

Whose reign will never end

Whose anthem dispels the darkest fear,

Whose voice the heavens  rend.

Come Lord Savior, King Sovereign

Bring peace to this fractured land,

Lead us into life eternal

By your great and mighty hand.

–Christina Dammerman 2016

 

 

 

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The Impossible Dream

Today we awake to new leadership over our nation. The media scratches their heads, news report headlines ask the repetitive question: “How did we get it wrong?” They say, we were undercover, closet trump voters. They say it was magic, they say it was the silent majority they say…

I smiled as I read the transcript of President Trump’s speech. Dream big and nothing is impossible resonated with my heart. “They” can say what “They” want, we know how this happened.

Daniel 2: 20-22:  Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. 21″It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. 22″It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.…

Romans 13:1-2:   1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which is from God. The authorities that exist have been appointed by God. 2Consequently, the one who resists authority is opposing what God has set in place, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.…

I now turn my heart to our great country and pray that the grace we have been extended will not be wasted.  I pray that we will truly turn to God with whole hearted devotion and learn HIS voice above all others. I pray that we will enrich, equip and launch the next generation to be fearless lovers of an all powerful God.  I pray for Trump, and his family.  I pray for our Vice President and his family.  The transition will be hard, and the journey will change them all, I pray for the better.  My hope is that as Solomon did, President Trump kneels in petition before the God who placed him in office, and asks the perfect question. How do I lead YOUR people.

1 Kings 3:9
“So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

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The Beam

We have lived five seasons on the old homestead.  Five seasons of  extended grace to fields, and furrows, to garden and shed.  Five seasons of running into myself as nine, twelve, sixteen, twenty one with five in tow…a blended family that found shelter under The Old Oaks welcoming shade, and my Father’s watchful gaze.  Five seasons of longing for time to slow it’s relentless march. Five seasons of learning to embrace loss, and discovering joy in the way new life comes from hard grounds.  It was time to change. Time to make the old new, the broken whole, but where to start? This spring, under the weight of wet, heavy snow the Old Oak tree split at the top and a large heavy branch crashed to the earth.  I trembled that morning upon discovering the branches lying separated from the root source.

“Don’t leave me too”, I whispered, running my hands over the scarred ancient bark…”not yet…not ever”

I remember when Dad rattled the oaks last July with his passing, “Squeak” said it was like a hurricane in the tops of the trees, and she knew her “George” was gone.  I felt paralyzed to touch anything lest the memory of my parents be forever altered, or worse…lost.  I was stuck between the forward and the backward swing of a pendulum of emotion. Deep down, I knew to keep grasping and trying to hold the past together  was not living, it was more like being a curator in a mausoleum. Yet, everything felt sacred. The old wood stove with the burnt out box, Mom’s dishes, Dad’s shoes.  It was in holding these things, that I was reminded that it was love that built this house, and the one before that and the one before that. It was a desire for family to be together that drove down hard roots in unrelenting soils. This was a homestead. A place to call the children and their children back to. An anchor in the storm of restlessness,a place where love would reign. So I breathed and whispered to the Gardener that it was time…time to change.

“Where do we start?”  The old porch that wouldn’t see another winter without bracing?  The roof where the tin was peeling back, the walls that needed insulation, the barn that was needing closed in?  The answer came dressed in oak cabinets that had survived a fire, but needed a Master’s touch.  Like our lives, and our hearts.  It was decided.   The kitchen would be first.  The question then loomed,  “how do you make what belonged to another family fit yours?”  I could feel my parents nod in approval as The Gardener sketched, and planned and pondered.

“That is what we have always done, that is what you will do.  ”

The old homestead had a long history of being a  modge-podge of blended hearts and bloods that called each other home, it only made sense that  we would start in the heart of the home, making the old oak cabinets fit. It was on a late summer day, as we sat around the living room dreaming out our  plans that the Boy,  the Light Bearer with the universe in his eyes dreamed a dream of open spaces and walls being torn down, and room being made.  I trembled as I felt the magnitude of the remodel of his vision….tear out the wall separating the kitchen and the living room? I glanced at the Gardener who surveyed the plan with quiet intensity. “It is possible” he said. “It would change the way this whole area looked…”  He glanced my way, waiting…”but, we would need to find a beam to support that long of a span”

I saw myself at nine, running through the house after Dad had framed the walls of the kitchen, it was a great big loop, I laughed at the thought of Mom literally going in circles to clean. I remember the way that opening into the kitchen was the perfect place to nail up sheets for a curtain as my brothers and sisters and I created a special romantic dinner “out” for the two of them one anniversary.  Get rid of the wall? As I sat staring into the kitchen, I felt for the first time the weight  and the joy of living here. Of making it MY home, instead of just my parent’s place.  This would be my touch to a long heritage. “Let’s do it!”  I declared with a lump in my throat. The Boy smiled and spoke gently, “I think Grandma would have loved it!”.  He smiled, I smiled and the Gardener sighed knowing the journey of transformation was going to be long and  hard. The kitchen waited in silence as The Gardener began his search for just the perfect beam. Long enough, strong enough,and  old enough.

The day he brought it home was a cold October.  Working swiftly in between the rain, the Gardener’s strong hands carefully unloaded the grayed, weathered beam.  and with a smile and a nod of respect he patted the side of the beam with his chisel.  “Oak!”   He smiled, as his eyes took in the craftsmanship that created this massive timber. ” You don’t find them like this anymore.  Over 100 years old! ”  The declaration was almost a whisper as he ran his chisel over the hand carved surface of the beam.  “Came from an old Amish barn in Pennsylvania.”  His hands moved over the rough sawn ridges and edges sensing the strength and the potential of the wood.  “Look at those marks, the way they carved this from the tree.  Turned the dowels by treadle, what stories this beam could tell!”

The Gardener began to whittle, and carve, and chisel the beam to his specifications with the same care he gave the earth when planning and planting his harvest. Methodical, precise, patient, intentional movements brought the massive old oak beam to rest securely upon the ceiling of the newly opened expanse.  We stood back in awe at the revelation of how one old beam, given new life, gave new hope to a tired space.  I went for the phone to call my Dad to celebrate, and remembered too late to stop the tears, that I couldn’t do that anymore.   The Gardener wrapped his arms around me, and whispered. “It’s ok, he knows”.  Somewhere outside, just past the oaks an old owl calls from the trees, and the wind picks up a bit and tosses more of the golden leaves to the ground.  A reminder to me, of how beautiful letting go can be.

 

The Lunch Box

Recently in a SoulCare session, I found myself sharing a tender memory of my Dad and his black loggers lunch box as a way of explaining the “gifts” of God.  The way He surprises us with the unexpected.

My Daddy’s lunchbox was the source of much excitement at the end of a long day.  The road to town was a winding one that didn’t beg to be traveled more than once a day.  So, early in the morning Dad would rise before the sun was up, pour his cup of black joe with three sugars, load his old loggers lunch box with the carefully wrapped wax paper bologna sandwiches Mom had made the night before and down the road to work he would go.  Because we lived so far out, Dad was the point of contact with the post office, the grocery store, the pharmacy and whatever else his large family of seven might need.

The opening of the  old lunch box held so much daily potential for joy and sorrow. It was a race to see who would get to open it first, there to find the love letters, lost letters, the occasional Idaho Mountain candy bar, cherry for me, vanilla for Him.   The surprise of a large piece of a bee’s honeycomb he had found in a tree he had cut down, with the amber sweetness still clinging to it.  To this day I remember my first taste of wild, fresh honey. You never knew what the lunch box would hold for that day…”life is like ….Dad’s lunch box….you never know what ya gunna get”.

The Lord has spoken to me often during this year of grieving the loss of my parents.  He has deepened my understanding of His Father’s heart in ways that has both excited, and terrified me.  Through it all, I am thankful that I am discovering a God who delights in giving gifts, and when that gift is the escort of pain, I know I can open the lid of the box, and I will find a tender relationship of love that whispers:  “As I was there in the joy, I am here in the sorrow.”

We took Dad’s old lunch box down from the shelf and used it one last time, to hold the cards and love wishes of those at his memorial service who expressed their hearts to us as they said goodbye.  Thank you Dad, for the lifetime of lessons you taught me from the lunch box.  img_20160916_101117750_hdr

Seed Silent

I have been silent of late. Not the sulking, depressed, anti-social, need to be hidden kind of silent, but the seed kind of silent.  Surrender silent.  The way the seed falls into the cool, dark blackness of earth and gives up one identity for the promise of another. Expectant kind of silent. The promise of the hard outer shell of familiarity cracking under the pressure of the moisture and the weight of the soil.  Longing silent. The way the lover sun pulls on the tenderness of the sprout coaxing and wooing it to the surface with promises of union and purpose and destiny.

This has been my silence as I walked my  earth wet with tears and felt the weight of the reality of my dust.  I have learned a lot about my seed self.  I have experienced paradigms shifting in every facet of my being.  Who I thought I was as Child, Mother, Wife, Friend, Worshipper…all being touched by the Master Gardener’s hand each time with one question:  “Do you yield?”

Will I yield to the work of the silence and surrender? Or die, a hardened intact seed with all of my potential locked inside me?

I bow and stretch and embrace pain as escort.  For the first time I am learning what it really means to be alive.  The why behind each breath and heartbeat.  I want to live.  Live intentionally and purposefully.  I am done with existing. There is so much more to it than that.

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Of Oaks & Men

And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.–Mark 8:24

Today marks one year since you took your last breath here upon this earth, you breathe another air now.  Air that is full of life, light, sound and song.  I wouldn’t ask you to exchange the beauty of the eternal SON for this temporal sojourn…but, I miss breathing the same air with you Dad.

I always wished that scripture for you…that your sight would be given back and your blue eyes would gleam with the testimony of healing you believed in and prayed for.  Even lame, and broken, you were a tree walking.  In my life you cast a shade so deep nothing of this earth could scorch my spirit as long as you were close.  You were my oak-man….walking.

I miss you Dad.  I feel your presence in so much of my life.  I can see you, like a tree…walking.   I just wish we could sit together, one more time, here on the grass, under the old oaks, and sip sweet tea and remember.  To hear your stories, to tell you mine, to see you smile and shake your head, to feel that bear paw of a hand upon my shoulder, steadying the rising swells of grief, guiding me to shore with your sitting easy kind of presence that made it all ok.

It is raining today, might even snow in the high country they say…it stormed when you passed, and it is storming upon your remembrance day.  I like it this way.  As if heaven agrees that a tree has fallen in the forest, and it has made a sound that echoes through generations with it’s passing.

You remain, you will always remain.

–Kid

 

 

The Sum of 77 years

I added up my mother’s life today.  Tearfully categorizing piles of cancelled checks into tax deductions, filing her worldly identity into a plain manila envelope.  It should have been pink, or turquoise or purple.  Her life was so full of color and sass and passion that the last years seem to be a dim reminder of the vibrancy that followed her. Yet, in the midst of a life haunted by sickness and chained to insurance premiums, was a powerful stack of receipts with the memo:  “For the poor widow of Israel”

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.–James 1:27

There in her shaky handwriting lay moments of worship as she paused to consider others in their plight of distress.  Worship as she reached across the world to bring another woman aching the loss of love and laughter and marriage a warm smile, and a shoulder.  Her small offerings each memo-ed with care and intentionality.   “for the poor widow…of Israel”

She believed The Lord when he said of his friend Abraham from whom his people Israel would come :  ” I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you ” Genesis 12:3

I sat there staring at the pages and realized with pride, my mother practiced pure,faultless religion.  This revelation would have brought her great joy I think.   She lived so much of her life in shame and fear trying so hard to please everyone and her God.  How fitting that this tender act of monthly mercy, unseen and unsung would be what the Lord would highlight to me as the summation of her 77 years.

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Wait For Me

It is Sunday as I write this.  The house is quiet, dogs are at my feet, the Gardener is napping, the sun is slowly moving behind the trees, the evening song is being sung by every robin and blue bird around the meadow.  It is a tarrying moment, and I am in it.

I had the privilege of experiencing a few of those in worship during our recent women’s conference.  Those moments where we corporately don’t push through the agenda, but we wait.  We hang out on a chorus, or a line or a phrase…and we sing it until we mean it.  It is balm to the soul of those whose spontaneous worship to God is a love language of prayer, and it is chaos to those who need definitive parameters, structure, and organization.  To one the tarrying, the waiting, the “pause” is a Hallelujah, to another it is Anathema.

Which is right?  I began to dig into the meaning of standing before the Lord to minister to him, or wait on him.  In Hebrew the word for tarry, or stand, is “amad”  it means :

A primitive root; to stand, in various relations (literally and figuratively, intransitively and transitively): – abide (behind), appoint, arise, cease, confirm, continue, dwell, be employed, endure, establish, leave, make, ordain, be [over], place, (be) present (self), raise up, remain, repair, + serve, set (forth, over, -tle, up), (make to, make to be at a, with-) stand (by, fast, firm, still, up), (be at a) stay (up), tarry.

I wonder if sometimes we get so caught up in our “ministry” to others….we forget the first priority is to minister to the Lord.  To wait upon him, for him, with him…to be present in our songs, and words and prayers.  To show up full hearted longing to just be with him.  In the Old Testament, this was done in open context.  Not behind closed doors, shut away and hidden from view.  It was PDA .  (Public Display of Affection).  Something we are not comfortable with, in any context, especially church.

Yet, when you look around at creation, and you see the work of HIS hands, it is all PDA. The birds, the bees, the animals, the sun, the moon the stars… all loving Him openly without shame according to their creation.  The racket in the trees this evening was pure delight.   Why then does it become such an issue of discomfort when we sit in the space designed and set aside for the sake of HIS name and love him in patient intentionality?  Why does it somehow become wrong to move carefully and gently through prayers, music, scripture, testimony, psalms and spiritual songs?  What is the real reason we come together?  Why are we doing what we are doing if what we are doing is not about loving HIM?

Will there be separate places of worship in Heaven?  I can’t find that.   All I see is that all of creation in heaven, on earth, under the earth come into agreement in extravagant lavish love throwing down crowns, singing, falling prostrate, adoring, and refusing to be without him.  If Jesus said his desire was that the will of the Kingdom of His Father would be made manifest in the Earth, and it is Heaven’s will to give praise, and adoration to the Son why can’t we agree with Him, and love Him by waiting on him?

One of the scriptures that causes me to ache often, is that of Mat 26:38:

Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

Ahh, but because they fell asleep, and they didn’t stand, tarry, wait, watch, linger, worship, pray, kneel, commune, remain, dwell….with him, I think we have lost something of what it really means when our Savior asks us to wait for/with him.  We fell asleep and lost the definition according to passion of our Bridegroom’s heart.  Perhaps that is why when he rose, he commanded them to wait, tarry, stand, pray, remain in community together, until the Holy Spirit was given in fire, and power and unction.  It would be the Holy Spirit who would teach them how to wait, how to hear.  But, the Holy Spirit, the Ruach Ha’Kodesh…yeah…he is unpredictable and undefinable, and unrelenting, he is…unsafe.

So we say he is welcome in our midst, to have his way and sing his song, and love through us, until it becomes uncomfortable and moves us out of what is the standard operating procedure in our sacred spaces dedicated to worship.  Then, we call that disorder and chaos and we can not receive or embrace the vessels or their worship and we turn away from the dancing king…perhaps, that is why we have been barren as a church, for so very long.

2Sa 6:20 Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!
2Sa 6:21 And David said unto Michal, It was before the LORD, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel: therefore will I play before the LORD.
2Sa 6:22 And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour.
2Sa 6:23 Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.

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