Every now and again on this journey of discipleship, when the future seems uncertain, and you have to trust in every promise of God, even when the facts and figures start to billow up into a storm that darkens your view of the horizon, you sit down for lunch, split open an avocado, and find within it lives a hidden tree. 

It is moments like this that you laugh at the splendor and beauty of God, and when He says crazy things like “don’t worry about tomorrow, I will supply your daily needs as they come”, you believe it a little more, and the horizon looks a little brighter and sweeter. And those clouds you saw looming and threatening look a little more like the heralds of happy showers that’ll surely nourish and cool and help all the growing things to sprout and stretch and bloom. And maybe even when the sunlight hits them in just the right way, they’ll sing for joy, and a rainbow will appear….


Hey, 
anything’s possible when you find a tree in your avocado. 
“Love will always be victorious. Sadness has to yield to Love.”
Early in the morning
before the break of dawn,
came a melody, a whisper
as I stood upon the lawn.

It danced upon the breeze
a sweet and hopeful tune
a song without a singer, 
"Peace! The Light is coming soon."

I looked, but there saw no one
though I daren’t speak a word
still and soft, stood I, listening
to the beauty that I heard. 
Excerpts from Class Discussion and Questions to Share On injustice and the fair treatment of the poor and marginalized purposed by the Covenant Law of Exodus and Deuteronomy: "…Professor and Pleins (in a way) and Catherine mentioned, and a straight-on reading of the Covenant Code clearly states, that God himself is the giver of the law, and the ruler of the people. God is the King and the judge, over the people, and promises protection and well-being for all when there is obedience in the land (the Deuteronomical Code gives a series of blessings for obedience of God’s good care taking of the people and curses that come when disobedience happens, the poor are neglected, God is forgotten, the covenant violated). I’ve seen too much of my own human heart to even think I could manage such a just or equally-minded living given to my own devices. If someone owes a debt to me, what on earth would provoke me to forgive them of it so completely without some knowledge of the good and forgiving nature of God, who gave me breath, redeemed me from my own slavery to addiction, and to who I owe my existence? A glance in any direction of the globe I think would confirm that I’m not the only one who has trouble at such a way of selfless inclusion that is prescribed to the Ancient Israelites under the Covenant. My question is whether true justice will ever be able to operate in society - large or small - secular or sacred - without the same foundational assumption as the Living God is Sovereign ruler, appealing to Him for guidance, and a core understanding of the value of each human life  - is possible at all? Even the well-wishing attempts go crooked down the road, as pointed out in the intentions of things like “No Child Left Behind” and some aspects of the Social Security system… that end up hurting instead of helping.  That came out fatalistic, and I don’t mean it to be at all. But man, a glance at any society under the sun, and it’s quite apparent we need a Savior to help us do this thing. I get hesitant when politicians, lawmakers and businesses make plans to fix it all, when the issues of the great macrocosm injustice issues of society must first be managed in the microcosm of the human heart.   But perhaps that is what we are doing here, in essence, together in this course: Right thinking as a prerequisite and supportive companion to right doing. And it’s quite beautiful to be a part of. “

Excerpts from Class Discussion and Questions to Share

On injustice and the fair treatment of the poor and marginalized purposed by the Covenant Law of Exodus and Deuteronomy:

"…Professor and Pleins (in a way) and Catherine mentioned, and a straight-on reading of the Covenant Code clearly states, that God himself is the giver of the law, and the ruler of the people. God is the King and the judge, over the people, and promises protection and well-being for all when there is obedience in the land (the Deuteronomical Code gives a series of blessings for obedience of God’s good care taking of the people and curses that come when disobedience happens, the poor are neglected, God is forgotten, the covenant violated). I’ve seen too much of my own human heart to even think I could manage such a just or equally-minded living given to my own devices. If someone owes a debt to me, what on earth would provoke me to forgive them of it so completely without some knowledge of the good and forgiving nature of God, who gave me breath, redeemed me from my own slavery to addiction, and to who I owe my existence? A glance in any direction of the globe I think would confirm that I’m not the only one who has trouble at such a way of selfless inclusion that is prescribed to the Ancient Israelites under the Covenant.

My question is whether true justice will ever be able to operate in society - large or small - secular or sacred - without the same foundational assumption as the Living God is Sovereign ruler, appealing to Him for guidance, and a core understanding of the value of each human life  - is possible at all? Even the well-wishing attempts go crooked down the road, as pointed out in the intentions of things like “No Child Left Behind” and some aspects of the Social Security system… that end up hurting instead of helping. 

That came out fatalistic, and I don’t mean it to be at all. But man, a glance at any society under the sun, and it’s quite apparent we need a Savior to help us do this thing. I get hesitant when politicians, lawmakers and businesses make plans to fix it all, when the issues of the great macrocosm injustice issues of society must first be managed in the microcosm of the human heart.  

But perhaps that is what we are doing here, in essence, together in this course: Right thinking as a prerequisite and supportive companion to right doing. And it’s quite beautiful to be a part of. “
Seminary, month one. Here are some lessons I have been learning that have nothing to do with the curriculum:
1. It is okay to walk to Shield’s Market at 9:30pm to buy a half a roast chicken to gnaw on for the next couple days because your days are so full, the grocery store seems like a “put off until I’m out of canned goods and Hebrew vocabulary” kind of thing. It is also okay if you are not wearing makeup and are in your “whatever” clothes with your hair up in a thing that casts frightening shadows down the sidewalk. Normal people do this. You aren’t going to get in trouble. Most people learn this earlier, I realize. I’m a late bloomer. 
2. Just because you’re in seminary does not mean everyone talks about faith, or even has a lot of it. Which is best met, as is any situation, not with confusion or judgement, but with love. 
3. Flossing is so important, you guys. Our teeth aren’t getting any younger!
4. Love really is all we need…. and I am infinitely grateful that Peace in the midst of the circumstantial whirlwinds is a manifestation of that love. 
5. When you encounter a person who dwells richly in love, and operates out of that — in their words, in their actions, in the way they approach their work and service, in the way they see each individual, and in the way they look into the brokenness of the world and see hope and life — you have encountered a miracle. And it is truly delightful. 
6. I am realizing more and more that living righteously - living a life of righteousness before God (not man) - has little to nothing to do with perfection. I am realizing it has a lot more to do with humility and a willingness to offer that which is broken or distorted to the One who can fix it. God is way more pleased with honesty than with piety. And even that is a gift… something we aren’t able to do on our own, without Christ first paving the way to open communion with God and access to His abundance of Love and Peace. 
7. Adonai ro’i. Lo exhar.
Seminary: Month One Here are some lessons I have been learning that have nothing to do with the curriculum: 1. It is okay to walk to Shield’s Market at 9:30pm to buy a half a roast chicken to gnaw on for the next couple days because you’re days are so full, the grocery store seems like a “put off until I’m out of canned goods and Hebrew vocabulary” kind of thing. It is also okay if you are not wearing makeup and are in your “whatever” clothes with your hair up in a thing that casts frightening shadows down the sidewalk. Normal people do this. You aren’t going to get in trouble. Most people learn this earlier, I realize. I’m a late bloomer.  2. Just because you’re in seminary does not mean everyone talks about faith, or even has a lot of it. Which is best met, as is any situation, not with confusion or judgement, but with love.  3. Flossing is so important, you guys. Our teeth aren’t getting any younger! 4. Love really is all we need…. and I am infinitely grateful that Peace in the midst of the circumstantial whirlwinds is a manifestation of that love.  5. When you encounter a person who dwells richly in love, and operates out of that — in their words, in their actions, in the way they approach their work and service, in the way they see each individual, and in the way they look into the brokenness of the world and see hope and life — you have encountered a miracle. And it is truly delightful.  6. I am realizing more and more that living righteously - living a life of righteousness before God (not man) - has little to nothing to do with perfection. I am realizing it has a lot more to do with humility and a willingness to offer that which is broken or distorted to the One who can fix it. God is way more pleased with honesty than with piety. And even that is a gift… something we aren’t able to do on our own, without Christ first paving the way to open communion with God and access to His abundance of Love and Peace.  7. Adonai ro’i. Lo exhar.

Seminary: Month One

Here are some lessons I have been learning that have nothing to do with the curriculum:

1. It is okay to walk to Shield’s Market at 9:30pm to buy a half a roast chicken to gnaw on for the next couple days because you’re days are so full, the grocery store seems like a “put off until I’m out of canned goods and Hebrew vocabulary” kind of thing. It is also okay if you are not wearing makeup and are in your “whatever” clothes with your hair up in a thing that casts frightening shadows down the sidewalk. Normal people do this. You aren’t going to get in trouble. Most people learn this earlier, I realize. I’m a late bloomer. 

2. Just because you’re in seminary does not mean everyone talks about faith, or even has a lot of it. Which is best met, as is any situation, not with confusion or judgement, but with love. 

3. Flossing is so important, you guys. Our teeth aren’t getting any younger!

4. Love really is all we need…. and I am infinitely grateful that Peace in the midst of the circumstantial whirlwinds is a manifestation of that love. 

5. When you encounter a person who dwells richly in love, and operates out of that — in their words, in their actions, in the way they approach their work and service, in the way they see each individual, and in the way they look into the brokenness of the world and see hope and life — you have encountered a miracle. And it is truly delightful. 

6. I am realizing more and more that living righteously - living a life of righteousness before God (not man) - has little to nothing to do with perfection. I am realizing it has a lot more to do with humility and a willingness to offer that which is broken or distorted to the One who can fix it. God is way more pleased with honesty than with piety. And even that is a gift… something we aren’t able to do on our own, without Christ first paving the way to open communion with God and access to His abundance of Love and Peace. 

7. Adonai ro’i. Lo exhar.

And he knew, in some mysterious way that would be hard to explain, that everything was going to be more wonderful for having been so sad. 
And he knew then that the ending of The Story was going to be so great, it would make all the sadness and tears and everything seem like just a shadow that is chased away by the morning sun. 
- Sally Lloyd Jones


Photo by Crystal Fleeger
Taken at the Cape Town waterfront, Summer 2008

"It Takes Smoke To Bloom: Thoughts on Hope."
Last night, I read some articles on two people groups of which I have a deep love and passion for. The Dalit of India and South Africans. 

The Dalit, the broken people or below-caste “untouchables”, a people who have been systematically dehumanized for thousands of years by the lie of the Hindu caste system. According to that ideology, they are the extras. Not made from the same stuff. Below the animals. Made to clean refuse and born as slaves to the rest of society. My sophomore year at William and Mary, I was involved in a Christian dance team (led and choreographed by a beautiful woman of God who went on to join the Peace Corps) that danced to Caedmon Call’s “Free the Dalit” to raise awareness of this overlooked people group, which numbers in the millions. Literally millions of families, men, women, and children completely ostracized from their society. One side of the city or village will have drinking water, electricity, telephones, government schools, and the other side lives in abject poverty. Until recent years and civil rights movements and the efforts of some very beautiful organizations and people working together to bring education and sanitation and health and a stab at equality and freedom (Rights, Education, And Development [READ], theDalitNetwork, Ghandi), some of these families have now gained a little access to the freedoms others have taken for granted. And freedom should be taken for granted. Freedom to live, work, play, have families, and hope without oppression should be taken as granted for every human being.  I am grateful for such groups of people who are working to make this kind of freedom a reality. 

The other article (Eve Fairbanks, “The Airplane is Faster than the Heart”, GOOD Magazine, Summer 2012.) was written by a fellow white American 20-something girl who traveled to live in Cape Town, South Africa, because she just couldn’t go another day without setting her feet on the soil and seeing that marvel of a nation first hand. She observes, laments, and comes to terms with the multiculturalism that characterizes that port city. Which is strange, for the now-mostly-healthy cohabitation and city-sharing of so many diverse peoples is what makes that city more beautiful than any other in the world to me. Because of the inhumanity and tragedy its peoples lived in and its rigorously separateness and inequality fueled by fear, hatred, and ignorance, seeing the union that has come over the past twenty years is nothing short of a miracle. Desmond Tutu can attest to that. 
The greatest marvel she highlighted was her discovery of Fynbos, fire lilies, a plant unique to South Africa. According to her research, it is the smallest of the world’s six floral kingdoms, and the only one confined to a single country. She goes on to describe her discovery:
“There was a reason, my roommate explained, that my socks had been gathering so much dirt. Our apartment was full of ashes. 
Three weeks before I’d gotten to Cape Town, a brushfire had raged over Table Mountain. Much of what had burned was fynbos, a kind of flower-sprinkled shrubland that covers the Western Cape. I felt bad about the fire, but my roommate told me fynbos likes to burn. 
I hiked up behind out apartment to take a look. Cape Town is supposed to be a beautiful city, but … the torched fynbos… was as breathtaking as anything I’d ever seen. The fire had seared the dirt smooth, and clumps of shrubs sat where they’d burned, transmuted into delicate, silvery-black fingers of charcoal. In one or two places, two new green leaves lay flat on the dirt, spread open like lips. Out of the leaves shot a red stalk, and out of the red stalk, a round, insanely neon pink blossom. In the ruined landscape, they looked… shocking and luridly gorgeous…Those neon flowers? Fire lilies, genus Cyrtanthus. They need smoke to bloom.”
Reading this, I nearly cried at the poetry of the thing. I will draw the seemingly-obvious parallel that this young journalist overlooked. 
In South Africa, the nation in which the raging fire of apartheid burned oppressed and oppressor together in its flames of inhumanity, disparity, and cruelty, a vibrant blossom of new life bursts forth. I spent my time there daily visiting the a local township of Khayelitsha. Townships constitute a land stretching for miles beneath the shadow of Table Mountain, matchbox houses as far as the eye can see, the result of forced removals and confinement of several hundreds of thousands of people during apartheid. The children we tutored were 13 and 14 at the time, born in 1994, the year South Africa had its first free elections and Nelson Mandela was instated as President. They had Xhosi names that translated to “Freedom”, “Love”, and “Liberty”. I will never forget the day that Ntombekaya, my sweet and ridiculously intelligent student, full of dreams for her future, asked me during an verb/noun distinction English assignment, “What is ‘hope’?”. Her simple grammatical question seared something deep in my heart. I swallowed the lump that had caught in my throat, and blinking tears, answered her question, “Hope is both… Hope is everything.”
The people of South Africa know hope. Even though the nation is still wrecked with a 25% unemployment rate and economic disparity - the small percent of its citizens sharing the privilege and power of a first-world lifestyle, while millions still live in the third-world, often only separated by miles and education opportunities - great and gallant strides have been made since the end of apartheid. Hope is what inspires the people to never give up in their pursuit of freedom and equality. Hope was the light in the eyes of little Ntombekaya when she would speak of one day becoming a teacher so she could bring better education to her community. Hope bursts forth like a fire lily blossom. Right after everything seems lost, hope reminds us that sometimes we need smoke to bloom. 

A prayer: 
Thank you, Father God, for reminding me today that the proper response to the continuing lack of freedom that I see in this city, this nation, and the world is not anxiety or guilt, but hope. Thank you for the freedom that you have brought into the very core of my being by your great love and truth. Teach me to do your will. Teach me to shine the light of hope to my sisters who struggle with the brokenness and lies that once chained me and to anyone who has eyes to see. Lead me and guide me to serve and speak for the freedom that you desire for all your daughters and sons across the world. Pour our your grace, your peace, and your freedom to all. And give us the strength to bloom. In Jesus’ name. 
“Its going on seven years now that I converted from Judaism to Christianity, and I am still in that blissed-out, newlywed stage in which you can’t believe your good fortune and you know that this person (in this case Jesus) whom you have chosen (or in this case, has chosen you) is the best person in the whole planet and you couldn’t take all the tea in China or a winning lotto ticket or even a nice country estate in exchange.”
Easter Wedding: A Poem
A Body, a Bride, in a stained, torn gown
waits for her Groom to ride into town.
Eating the spoils of lovers and pride,
turned her blood sour and bottom wide.
Broken and beaten and prone to despair,
with dead thoughts and worries a nest in her hair.
She needs a transfusion, a healing, a hope —
the one the Groom bought on Calvary’s slope.
A knock on the door and a nod of consent,
blows dust from the floor as the darkness is rent.
Come dear, he says sweetly, as he walks down the aisle.
She fears, but is calmed by his tender-eyed smile.
A Carpenter-Prince, Poet-Warrior King,
From his wounds, takes a bandage, and washes her clean.
The past is all gone and the future made new. 
For the Groom saved His Bride long before the “I do”.