Nov 6, 2016

Sabbath in a Sanctuary of the Oaks

"Faith sees a beautiful blossom in a bulb, 
a lovely garden in a seed, and a giant oak in an acorn."

Photograph by Lisa Moreland

Today's Sabbath was experienced 
in the sanctuary of the Oaks.

Paths lace the curvature of a creek and its pooling ponds that flow through the neighborhood. Decades of consistent water has populated the shoreline with a variety of stately Oak trees. Their diversity is never more apparent than in autumn, as acorns of every size, various patterns, and a range of color cascade from leafy canopies, down through the limbs, to cover the ground with an abundance of uniquely capped nuts. 

Photograph by Lisa Moreland
Their scattered presence speaks boldly to the soul.  Boldly, as evidence of the Creator's mandate for diversity in all species.  Boldly, as examples of His sustaining provision in all seasons. Boldly, according to St. Bonaventure, as an inscription of God's "footprint", along with all things that cover the earth. 

"God writes the Gospel, 
not in the Bible alone, 
but also on trees, 
and in the flowers and clouds and stars."
Martin Luther

May your Sabbath be filled with God's tender presence and reassurance,

Linking with these faith writers: Spiritual Sundays, Scripture & a Snapshot,  & Coffee for the Heart. Click on the links to read more posts. 

Aug 27, 2016

Heed a Song Sung for the Spirit

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, 
and watching for this purpose with all perseverance 
and supplication for all saints…” 
Ephesians 6:18 WBT

A songbird trills its melody just outside the kitchen window, 
a back drop to the rote routines of morning; 
brewing tea, let the dog out, light a candle, empty the dish rack, pour milk over cereal. 

Refreshed from sleep, thoughts are quiet. 
Attention is allowed to settle effortlessly on patterned sequences of tasks and paths around the kitchen. Familiar movements follow: cupping the mug, spooning cereal, holding a match to the wick, opening shutters for the first glimpse at day. 

In the midst of rinsing the bowl, 
candle fragrance rising, 
and still sipping tea, 
the bird’s song register’s again. 
Still singing. 

The mind’s attention sharpens. 
Movements cease. 
Silently I hear You’re missing this.

Return to the table. Search the foliage rich view beyond the window for the feathered resident. 
Sit with the song. 

Hear deep in your marrow a song sung for the Spirit within, by the same Spirit that permeates all. Awaken to the soul’s response as whispers begin my own morning’s praises and prayers, joining the song bird’s melody.

Though the songbird has ceased, 
candle fragrance fills the room 
and prayer continues in gratitude for heeding the Holy Spirit’s invitation.  

“Devote yourselves to prayer, 
being watchful and thankful.” 
Colossians 4:2 NIV

Aug 4, 2016

Be Like Jesus

{For the past several months I have been working with a small group of folks at my church, defining what a Creative Writing Team might contribute to worship. In part we have been in conversation about beginning a blog designed to compliment each sermon series for the contemporary service. This post was first shared on that blog.}


“God decided from the outset

to shape the lives of those who love him 

along the same lines as the life of his Son.” 

Romans 8:29 MSG

God’s fervent intent, His deepest desire, is to make us into Jesus’ image; for us to be like Jesus. The concept may seem daunting. Here are some thoughts that point the way.

Lauren F. Winner, Duke Divinity School Assistant Professor reminds us, “Jesus specialized in asking people to steep themselves in the words of the scriptures and then to look around their ordinary Tuesdays to see what they could see about holiness and life with God.” In her book, Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God, Winner explores multiple Biblical metaphors that symbolically illustrate the nature of God. From such symbolism we gain insight to ways that we can be Christ-like. For instance, Colossians 3:12 NIV tells us, “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Put on Jesus’ nature each morning just as you put on your day’s attire. Wrap yourself in His character as you engage in those ordinary days that are every day of the week. Be like Jesus, for His interaction with the people was not just on the Sabbath and did not happen behind the pulpit of a sanctuary. His conversations with seekers occurred across the tables of a meal, down the street around the local well, on lake shores in the midst of workday chores, on the road during travel, in homes and on hillsides, as well as in the congested thoroughfares of city streets. To be like Jesus, to love people as God loves us, we must wear our faith into every venue that we frequent. 

To be like Jesus, Christians simply have to show up. Jesus showed up in the hard places of human life. He showed up when people were diseased and dying. He sought out the poor, the widow, the orphaned, the marginalized, and the felon. Jesus offered food when the crowd was hungry. He washed feet to express His love. As Shelly Miller describes, “... God often shows up in the messy, broken, ordinary, complicated of the mundane.” In the foot steps of Christ, with the love of Christ, we are given compassion and courage to show up, to be His ambassador of hope for people who are struggling.

“ He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; 
and greater works than these he will do.”

John 14:12 NKJV

In the course of our efforts we’ll encounter people with deep questions regarding faith. It’s helpful to remember that Jesus repeatedly engaged in conversations with people who doubted His divine nature. But His followers knew Him to be approachable. Strangers knew Him as a teacher; ever patient, prepared to illustrate again, within the context of daily life, a new metaphor, a new story, of how God lovingly pursues His children and how faith can be nurtured. We can follow His example in the varied circumstances of our contemporary lives by being authentic about our own moments of doubt and our own committed journey to a stronger faith. Christian writer, Shannon Martin wrote, “...(Jesus) keeps showing up for us, often disguised as each other. He reveals himself, quite improbably, through humans who struggle ...”

Try it on, this garment of Christ. Perhaps a few alterations might be made, in keeping with the unique talents and spiritual gifts that God created in you, even though the composition of the cloth is His. Step into your ordinary days permeated with the variances of God’s people, wearing the heart and mind of Jesus.

Dear Lord Jesus,

You spent your life here on earth caring for others.

You reached out to the homeless and the hurting with compassion. 
You forgave those who insulted you and tried to destroy you. 
Seeking hearts found answers from you. 
Weary hearts found rest. You lifted up those who were beat down by life.

Your kind heart broke for the entire world.

May we follow your example and spend our lives reaching out to others. 
When we are tempted to turn away from people,

let us show your love instead. Amen.

Max Lucado

Lauren F. Winner, Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other 
Overlooked Ways of Meeting God
Shelly Miller Blog - spirit-descends-like-a-pigeon/
Shannon Martin - church.html
Max Lucado, Live Loved: Experiencing God’s Presence in Everyday Life
Photography by Lisa Moreland

May 11, 2016

A Window to the World

A window to the world,
over the kitchen sink.

This was one of my mother’s major considerations when house hunting, which was done more than two dozen times due to the nature of her husband’s career. 

Her best loved homes provided a view to the outside world as she orchestrated meals and mounds of dishes for eight. In the Georgia pines a tiny house gifted her with backyard views of her young children at play and clothes drying on the line. The St. Louis house had an expansive bird perching hedge just beyond the sink glass. In Minnesota and Virginia, split level designs raised the view beyond the sink to mid tree heights and vistas of neighboring yards. Across the years, from state to state, she enhanced the daily scenes with feeders inviting the birds, brilliant blooms spreading along a fence line or hanging in planters, and a picnic table welcoming meals outside. It was a priority, even I as a child knew, the kitchen window was a priority.

Then there came a house with many fine attributes, historic and gracious. It became our home despite lacking the longed for window above the kitchen sink. Progressively, across the decades of living there, the wall above the kitchen sink was transformed into an exhibit provoking thought and covered with beauty. She curated  an assemblage of small art prints, inspirational quotes, clever cartoons clipped from the paper, prayers, scripture, poems, paintings from greeting cards or magazines. The spread was taped and pinned, fitted and aligned as a publishing house would arrange and edit its best quarterly press release. As a young adult home to visit, reading mom’s collection above the sink became an honored tradition and fodder for deep conversation over morning coffee  ~ a window to the inner world of a our mother’s intensely creative mind and deeply spiritual soul. 

Linking with the communities at Coffee for the Heart, Tell His Story, & Give Me Grace.

Apr 30, 2016

A Wander by Water

Visual Prayer Journal image: assorted papers, 
acrylic, ink, original art prints, and photos.

It could be a steadily streaming creek bed, pulsing white frothed waves, or the glassy mirrored surface of a shore bound lake. 
Water draws me to its banks in all its lulling variations: coursing under bridges, spilling down rocky falls, undulating in rolls against the sand.

Trees forest its banks. Wildlife populate its shores and depths. Humanity casts fishlines, feeds ducks, spreads picnics, and stroll along its banks. A rippled pattern of reflected light in liquid hues of blues, greens, grays, changing with the hour, the season, and the temperament of the sky. An ever morphing panoramic pallet. 

Christine Valters Paintner writes about contemplative walking as “listening to what God has to say to me”. Soulfully “trying to be present to life as it is and respond to the call of the world to your heart”, such that the journey essentially becomes a “mini-pilgrimage”.

A lifetime of walking roads that circle lakes, paths that follow rivers, beaches that edge the ocean’s shores, trails that meander ravines of rocky creeks. Walks charted across every region, strewn across memory, laced together in the continuous sense of sacred presence in the midst of a divinely created world.

Quotations taken from Eyes of the Heart by C. V. Painter

Linking with Give Me Grace, Coffee for the Heart, Let Us Grow, Simple Tuesday.

Apr 21, 2016

Authentically Marked

Once pristine architectural elements bear witness to decades long past. 
A worn sheen etched by the passing of generations.
Peeling layers curl back, breaking free of walls long attached.

Flakes, chips, lost pieces of life lived in the past. 
Color aged, turned across years, 
burnished and shredding 
until sanded surfaces are revealed. 

The story is not lost with the surface. 
It is deepened by the layered revelations of wear.
Character is transformed, 
authentically marked by existence; 
serving a purpose 
across days strung by time.

At our best,
we are called to live a similar story.

Apr 14, 2016

Story Reflects the Weave of a Striving Heart

I have not written. It escapes me. 
The notion rises near daily, then evaporates as a wisp. 
Sentences promise to line up. Topics ticker tape across the marquee of thoughts, but fade and spill into the mist of distractions. 

Immediacy calls out, speaks internally about life’s shortening thread and the reduced opportunities to tell stories. Relentless, Immediacy rises up to inspire the will to write. 

Decision Making counter argues. Decision Making tangles the story yarns; knots the family of origin lore with travel logs, splits threads between loss or redemption memoire, and balls up faith stories with frayed epistles of doubtful searching. 

Decision Making teams with the uninvited Nay Sayer to haggle internally over the value of recording any of it. Where would the stories find readers or purpose? One woman’s collection of tales, the Nay Sayer posits, among billions of her peers; why would that have value?


"The Only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world 
will be born of our own creativity." 
Brene Brown, Daring Greatly


Spirit rises. 
Spirit, the sacred and divine within all, rises. 
Spirit persistently urges – write.
Spirit devotedly whispers, every story matters.

Every story reflects the weave of a striving heart,
co-created by divine intent and human interpretation. 
Record personal history, recount disasters and discoveries
to herald the dearly attained saga of human transformation.


“The voice that spoke light into existence is the one we need to expel the darkness within and bring us to light, to life, and to love. Working on us like an instrument that is out of tune, God masterfully tightens and loosens the strings until notes resonate properly and reflect the most beautiful of sounds. We find our voice when we find His voice.” p. 60

The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life Into a Work of Art
Erwin Raphael McManus

Linking this post with the following communities of writers: Coffee for the Heart, Simple Tuesday, and Let Us Grow. Click on the badge below to visit these link ups.

Feb 27, 2016

An Intention to Learn

Linking with Emily's community for What I Learned in February. Join me as women of faith chat with humor, surprise, or tongue in cheek about the past 30 days of living this great big life we've been blessed with!

Here are my thoughts. Just the highlights, the best or the parts that are mine to share.

1. Mild winter weather has its beauty and I have enjoyed being outside on these uncommonly warm days. But there is a much bigger global picture to this phenomenon that is deeply concerning. A fictional account in Barbara Kingsolver's book Flight Behavior highlights how warmer temperatures can be devastating to the existence of multiple species dependent on stable environments for food sources and producing their young, not to mention the fires and floods that threaten human lives. A most impactful read.

2. Jeanne Oliver teaches online art courses. I'm participating in "Reflections: Paint Your Story" which includes collage, portraiture, symbolism, mark making, and more. It is awesome! Nurturing my soul and extending my art. Here is my work titled "Generation After Generation", honoring my family's deep ancestral roots.
Generation After Generation: Acrylic and Vintage Papers, By Lisa Moreland

3.Mentoring is awesome and has multiple examples in the Bible: think Elisha and Elijah, Mordecai and Ester, Elizabeth and Mary, Jesus and the Disciples. Studying Jessica LaGrone's curriculum, Set Apart, with a dozen other women this past month. Lots of self reflection and deep learning in this study.  

4. It's the final season of "Downton Abby" and "The Good Wife". I tell myself one really should not lament such trivial matters. Even so, a series with strong characters, excellent dialog, creative plot twists, and talented performances without terrorism and forensics are hard to come by. 

Grateful for these experiences and all the endless possibilities. New learning is available every day when we intend to have eyes that watch for it and ears that hear it.

Feb 19, 2016

The Thin Space Between Dark & Dawn

Slender light slips dim and slow through the window. 
Darkness still clings to the corners while tea steeps. 
Candlelight flickers on the kitchen table in honor of the 
thin space of heaven’s portals between dark and dawn. 

Cold rises from floor tiles, seeps around window panes carrying the scent unique to crisp winter air. 
Socks layered within slippers. 
Sweater layered over flannels. 
A scarf too, in a cozy loop around my neck. 

I stand at the window, 
a small witness to the new day’s splendor. 
A singular heart’s praise for the persistent majesty
of God's cosmic order.

Linking with Small Wonder, Tuesday Afternoon, Weekend Whispers,& Give Me Grace.

Jan 9, 2016

Readings Around the Web

Many mornings I begin with a steaming cup of green tea along side the laptop, scrolling through various favored sites that expand my devotional reading as well as inform and inspire my faith practices. I'll share these few. Perhaps your heart will be encouraged.

Christian poet Jane Kenyon  wrote beautiful poetry and essays on faith. A while back I wrote about her expressions of faith in her last book, A Hundred White Daffodils. It has recently been highlighted in this BrainPicking link. Kenyon is quoted, along with other writers, on the characteristics of pursuing a focus and routines that contribute creative living, specifically, a writing life. 

Jan Richardson wrote a fascinating book, A Sanctuary of Women, exploring the faith stories of selected Christian women including the earliest cloistered women of faith. She also writes an online Epiphany retreat for women each year. The retreat is a collection of short writings and engagingly beautiful art, designed to facilitate reflection and prayer. 

Jeanne Oliver is a multimedia artist who founded a website that offers online art workshops lead by several female artists. Each year the women also offer a free online faith workshop that is scripture based, video clips of women telling their faith story. This year's theme is LISTENING. Their stories cover the full range of a woman's experiences. Regardless if you are an artist or not, there is encouragement here. After you get to the site, click on Week One of the video's listed down the margin.

The days are cold. The hot mug warms my hands. People sharing their faith through words or art, warms my heart and kindles awareness of holy presence. Whether I hold a hardcover book or travel across the internet for words that inspire, God's hand is in it all. 

Linking with Weekend Whispers, Still Saturday, and Simple Tuesday.

Jan 1, 2016

Terrain and Lenses

Gazing out the window of an aircraft can offer the most magnificent of perspectives. Looking back reveals the terrain that has already been traveled across in all its undulating, traversing intricacy. Valleys are apparent, river crossings are complete, distances from one point and to another are fairly clear. 

Pondering the living of the past year can be approached from a similar perspective; spread it all out, look back for familiar markers, and consider the ground that has been traveled.

Nourishing Ties
As I do so, a large swath of such a blanket of last year’s doings represents family. Mine is large and geographically far flung, desert to tropics, woodlands to prairies, nearly coast to coast, requiring a determined “get out there” and see them intention. Those multiple travels rendered tender days of crisp memories, deeply nourishing ties that had gone adrift for too long. Though the effort to reconnect with so many still extends into the new year, its encouraging to anticipate the renewal of each relationship.

Soul Space and Lunar Reality
Across the months of any year there are the shadows of darkness. Events that stun, circumstances that pull the air out of every sail. A backward glance at the past twelve months can’t ignore the hues of heaviness that we must learn to bear. There is much to be said about the understandings that were seared by the hurt and the capacity of endurance that was tested. However along side that level of learning, I garnered additional insight about the elements of darkness that are more benign, the ancient history of God’s presence there, the long lost value of being familiar with the dark. Barbara Brown Taylor writes of such wisdom in Learning to Walk in the Dark. Knowing darkness well, both as a soul space and a lunar reality, tempers fear.

Global View, Scriptural Compass
Increasingly as world dramas have ticker-taped their way across every screen and voices intone in decibels just below shrill screams, I have strived to imagine a global perspective, since presumably this is God’s perspective of His world, His people, His cosmos. From the thinnest atmosphere, with the benefit of recorded history, and through the lens of scripture…that widest scope influences priorities and opinions.

The terrain of 2015 was as diverse as each of its predecessors, both personally and historically.  As the phrase from A Tale of Two Cities declares, every era “is the worst of times and the best of times”. In any calendar year, it matters greatly what maps and lenses you use to guide your way.
*   *   *

Linking with Emily Freeman's What I Learned Community, Coffee for Your Heart, Weekend Whispers, & Tell His Story.