Archives For writing

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In a recurring dream, I see myself writing in an old attic or barn, wood beams above me and panels around me. I don’t know whether I’m writing on a laptop or by hand; all I know is there’s blinding white in front of me and the words have run out. I used to think it was a nightmare about writer’s block, but it’s evolved slowly over the years to a worse fear: There are no words left to say about anything.

Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, “Of the making of books there is no end” (v. 12:12). My dad used to tell me when I whined as a child, “Same song, different verse.” In an anthropology class I read Noam Chomsky saying there are untold numbers of ways to say the same thing without ever using the same words in the same order. The possibilities seem endless.

Why then, the fear of words of running out?

Our fear of finitude of ideas drives writers to steal from others. Austin Kleon writes in his best-selling book, Steal Like an Artist, “Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find your self.” Unfortunately, though, many copy, copy, copy and instead of finding themselves, they lose themselves.

Seasoned bloggers know that when they press publish, releasing their words into the wild abyss of the Internet, they lose a bit of themselves. Not just because their once-private words have become public, but because they can no longer control where, when, and how those words are used.

Loyal readers flag me about every other month when they notice cut-and-paste hack jobs swiped from my personal blog. I mostly assume that someone’s grandmother doesn’t know Internet protocol or some kid wanted words to put on a stock photo with a hazy Instagram filter. The most recent case was different, though. After the third email came, I clicked through to spot whole paragraphs, paraphrased sentence for sentence, from a few of my own posts. I clicked further to discover this new blogger’s “about” page co-opted my own bio word for word, sandwiched by paragraphs of her own details.

Her words sounded like mine, my readers had said. Well, because they were mine.

Continue reading at Christianity Today. 

I know this post will feel like whiplash after the last two posts and I don’t mean to do that to you. But this morning I read Psalm 127 and it’s sticking to my gut in an uncomfortable way. It’s sticking to my gut in a way that confirms some things that have been otherwise floating around:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

I read it through twice, three times, and then a fourth. I am no stranger to this Psalm, I know it to near perfect memory. As I read it this morning though, I pictured my life in it in a way I never have before. Until I owned a house, felt the danger of a city, lost the fruit of my womb, and had enemies, it was easy to picture this Psalm as it was sung in ancient days, but not these days, not my days.

Today though, I see my home in Denver, the financial loss we took on it. I see the gunman shooting six times into the police-officer on the ground in my new city. I see the year now of sleepless nights, learning to share a bed, putting a night person and a morning person on a similar schedule, waking with a new puppy every hour to few hours, a husband who rises in the four o’clock hour most mornings. I see the two tiny humans we lost in unceremonious ways, gushing away from my womb, out of our quiver, into their watery grave. I see enemies, accusations against me, us, our small family, our decisions. This Psalm infiltrates the fibers of my life this year and leaves nothing untouched.

. . .

Being a child of divorced parents left a undeniable impression on many, many, many things. One of which is I decided if the Lord ever gave me the gift of marriage I wouldn’t wait until our marriage was in trouble to get marriage counseling.

So, almost a year to the day of our wedding, we met with a counselor last night for nearly two hours. The first thing we said was, “We know you’re not our Savior, we just need help processing all of this.” We were a deluge of facts, bulleting down a list of All The Things. We sat close to one another and adored and loved one another not one iota less than a year ago, but with a heck of a lot more weight to all of it. We spilled it all. And at the end of it he said, “I’m wondering something: do you guys know how to feel emotions?”

I pictured the silly magnet on my Gram’s fridge when I was little for a minute. The grid of different faces we now call “emoticons” (as though our generation invented the smiley face…) with a “Today I’m Feeling…” title in some eighties version of Comic Sans. And I thought to myself, I don’t know how to feel anything except exhausted.

We said no. No, we don’t.

. . .

My personal challenge for this month is to Engage Emotions, but all this month has taught me is that I have no earthly idea how to engage anything. I’m like a whack-a-mole with my heart: the moment something foreign or heavy or scary or angry pops up, I pound it back down before it takes over with a force I can’t fathom. But I’m so angry. I am. I’m not angry like a raging fury, I’m angry like a rolling storm over a Great Lake, picking up rain and force as it comes.

I’m not angry at a specific person or even God, but I’m angry that two barely married kids were thrown into situations we had no idea about. I’m angry that Nate’s contract wasn’t renewed only a few months after getting married and a month after buying a house. I’m angry that in the face of all the stress my body couldn’t hold two new barely formed babies. I’m angry that a hundred applications and demoralizing interviews left us with only one offer—on the other side of the country. I’m angry that there is evil in the world and I saw it and now every siren and suspicious person ushers in a low grade anxiety. I’m angry that our house was worth what we had it listed for, not a penny less, and we ended up losing so much on it because we couldn’t float lives in two different states. I’m angry that my husband’s heart has been having issues for months. I’m angry that I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in a year. I’m angry that I went to the doctor yesterday and listed out all the things and she said, “Sleep is going to be one of the most important things you can do to heal and restore your body.”

I’m angry because God’s word says He gives His beloved rest and all of this makes me feel like I am not His beloved after all.

But I’m angry, like I told our counselor yesterday, in a standoffish way. As though I’m viewing an intricate painting in the National Gallery or a complicated sculpture or a biopic. That’s someone’s life but not mine. I feel angry on behalf of the girl I was a year ago and the girl I left behind somewhere along the way.

Today I shared a bit of that with some friends and fellow writers and one said, “I have often marveled at how detachedly you write about all you’re going through on your blog. Now I see from what the counselor says how you do that! Seriously, though, I wonder if writing about all this for the public while in the middle of it serves to exacerbate the emotional distancing. Writing inherently distances us from our inner life simply through the process of externalizing and reifying it. I wonder if this might contribute to that kind of detachment.”

She said the words Nate and I have been thinking and talking about for a while. And for one moment, it felt like permission to do what we’ve been talking about: putting Sayable on hiatus. To learn God’s word is about God and for those back in ancient times, also it is about and for you, and it is also for me. For my weak heart and disengaged emotions. For my inability to feel anger or sadness or frustration or joy for myself, for fear of what it might say about the Holy Spirit inside of me.

So friends, for the sake of my marriage, my home, my heart, and my love for the Lord, I will be putting Sayable on hiatus for a few months. I don’t know how long a few months is, it could be two, it could be six. It may seem easy to write about emotions and mourning and decision making as deeply as I do here, but it takes a lot out of me in all honesty. It takes a lot of me. Part of my problem is I’ve begun to write for you instead of writing for Him, and I’ve been brutally honest with you, but struggled to bring my everything and my nothing to Him.

I cried hard today while writing this and it was the most cathartic thing I’ve done in a year. I know it is the right thing to do. I will miss you, but I miss my heart more.

I need the Lord to build my house, otherwise all my labor is indeed vain.

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Wayne Irons was a tall man, long in the neck, broad in the shoulders and gut, and small at the feet, like an upside down triangle or an ice cream cone. He was the sort of man who seemed intimidating until he stood up and his spindle legs gave him away. His skin was the color of a scrubbed toddler after a hot bath or a high-school prom dress, pink and bright. Still, children were afraid of him (his height) and grown men ignored him (his complexion). The other students in his class were bored by him and he cared little for them too. Science was his master and his friend, his company and his mistress, his god.

This particular morning Wayne Irons was wearing galoshes and a raincoat. It was not raining, nor had it been, nor was it scheduled to be, but Wayne Irons was not wearing them for inclement weather outside. And as we have established, Wayne Irons cared little for the opinions of others regarding his person, his stature, or his clothing.

The galoshes were heavy and too large. The left one slipped up and down as he walked, his satchel under one arm and his lunch sack in his other hand. His limp slowed him and he stood on the corner of Beech and 34th to rest a minute, his left leg crooked at the knee. This stance felt most natural for him, even more natural than standing or sitting or lying down. He could still observe everything around him, above the heads of the crowd, while standing only on one leg. Most humans couldn’t do this for long, but he had adapted to his limitations, as all animals do. His own evolutionary process thrilled him. He considered himself a great testament to the truth

Wayne Irons was today visiting the city zoo which was just like every other day, but for one difference: he had been invited to tour the inside of the tropical exhibit, to see up close the animals he had studied for all his life. Invitations to anything were rare for Wayne Irons so it was not lost on him the exceeding good luck he had in procuring this one. It had not occurred to him that he neither tried nor cared for invitations to anything else, not parties, not holidays, not reunions. Being inside tropical exhibit at the city zoo was the pinnacle of all his years of study, the creme de le creme of his life’s work.

The walk to the city zoo was not long and Wayne Irons had walked it nearly every day of his life. He grew up in the same house in which he still lived, in the same bedroom in which he still slept. Wayne Irons was not a man who strayed far from his natural habitat and home. He was a man of consistent rhythms and knew his needs and his habits well. He considered daily visits to the zoo a need more than a habit, but understood others saw things differently. Being a good student of the evolutionary process meant being tolerant of the process in other lives and the bodies of others. He felt himself in an upper echelon of thought in this way. Human beings could be so intolerant of the simple biological needs and urges of others. Laws enacted, taxes attached, protests made, and elections fought—all of these because humanity couldn’t live with a greater understanding that all things eventually evolve or grow or change or die. It was a freeing way to live, Wayne Irons knew this to be true, as certain as he knew that someday he too would die because of an unseen limitation his adaptation would bring him too. “We are finite entities,” he would often say to himself, “But we are also capable of much more than we think.” He would usually say this before leaving his house in the morning or before doing something that frightened him in some way. He said it now, standing before the zoo gate, though he was not frightened so much as exhilarated. Certain he was wading into something deeper and more profound than he even knew.

It was early and the gate wasn’t unlocked yet (he knew it wouldn’t be), so he stood in front of it, resting on his right leg again, his left bent at the knee. The gate was rusting at the hinges and one side hung deeper than the other, so the O that was intended to connect the two gates at the middle was split. ZOO looked instead like zSo. It made Wayne Irons chuckle to himself and he decided he would begin to hunt for all the ways neglect made signs and words say something different than their intended word.

Neglect was another interest of Wayne Irons, to a lesser extent than science—although he would argue they were related. What we don’t need we neglect, he would say, and eventually we lose. He pointed to his left leg as evidence of this—its muscles atrophying and spider veins spreading from the back of his calf. His leg was eating itself alive. He found the process fascinating instead of disgusting. He was watching his own body turn into its best version of itself all on its own. He was eager for the day when doctors would amputate this appendage that had become strange to him in its neglect. Most doctors told him there was nothing wrong with his leg, it was all in his head, that if he would just begin to use it again, it would be fine. Wayne Irons knew better, though, the leg felt foreign to him and so he treated it like it was.

A zookeeper came to the gate to unlock it. Wayne Irons knew his name was Hopper or Harper or something, but usually gave very little indication that he knew or cared about the names of anyone. Names, he thought, were of little importance to the person. People were made of cells and blood and veins and organs—the same as animals—and we didn’t give names to all the animals. He nodded quickly at the man but did not meet his eyes and walked toward the tropical exhibit. To get there he had to go past the gorillas and the chimpanzees, humanity’s forefathers. He had little interest in gorillas and chimpanzees, but he did respect the process they had undergone to become what he was today and so he always slowed a bit at their enclosure to regard them and wonder what these exact gorillas and chimps might have become if they were not treated like the animals they were. In this way the zoo made him sad. It seemed to him a giant experiment in limitations. A bubble of possibilities that would never materialize. Glass walls and ceilings keeping the beings inside from expressing their true selves. He rarely lingered in the sadness, though, because the zoo was his only opportunity to be amongst the beings where he felt most himself.

The tropical exhibit was partially under glass with rain-spritzers intermittently spraying down and partially outdoors with all sorts of vegetation and water pools spread around it and an arched cage ceiling above it. Wayne Irons loved the tropical climate. He had been told by the keeper to wear the galoshes and poncho today, but if he had his way he’d have gone in barefoot and undressed, his pink backside and belly blinding the eyes of zoo-goers. He felt both his most vulnerable and his most secure with these living things. He ought to feel like he was walking into an exhibit, but he felt like he was leaving the exhibit and walking into home.

Wayne Irons followed the keeper (whose name he did know was Le Grange, but to whom he would never address as such) into the enclosed space and walked into a wall of humidity. It was cooled by the spritzing of water and by the presence of vegetation, but the air was thick and heavy. He liked it because it felt safe and he hated it because it felt oppressive. He knew he would feel better outside with the birds, even if it was inside a cage.

The keeper brought Wayne Irons with him as he opened doors and fed animals and cleared out weeds from the tropical gardens. Wayne Irons did not speak and the keeper did not speak to him. Theirs was a silent parade through the motions of the morning. Wayne Irons did not offer to help and the keeper did not ask him to. Whenever they paused, Wayne Irons rested on his right leg and lifted his left, crooking it at the knee. The heat was beginning to grow oppressive and Wayne Irons did not mind the rain water so he shed his poncho and soon his galoshes, then his buttoned up shirt and his socks too. They were outside now, feeding the alligators. He could see the birds in another caged enclosure and he rolled his pant legs up.

The keeper had a bucket of small fish in his left hand and a bucket of grey shrimp in the other. The food looked delicious and Wayne Irons knew he would rather the shrimp than his own brown bagged lunch. He and the keeper were walking toward the flamingos now, and Wayne Irons felt his belly growing sweaty and full with expectancy.

The flamingos were, for Wayne Irons, the most perfect specimens of any animal. He had spent full days staring at them before. They were graceful and awkward, audacious alone and camouflaged together. They were social in the exact way he felt most unable to be. He longed to be like them. He longed to be them.

Wayne Irons had spent his life studying flamingos, their patterns, their prey, their preening habits. He stood for hours in front of the mirror in his bedroom at home mimicking their stance, their grace, and their coloring. He could not thank any god for giving him a body such as his, tall and rotund, leggy and pink, but he thanked evolution for making it clear that he would never be as fully human as he was flamingo. They were showy in a way he dreamed he could be if he could be one of them. He had begun evolving himself into a flamingo in his earliest memories, lifting his chin and craning his neck to impossible lengths. All of the children in school thought he was haughty, but he knew the truth: I am really a flamingo.

Wayne Irons was running into the flock now and they scattered at his presence. He knew why of course: they did not recognize him! He began to shed the last of his clothing, the undershirt, the pants, and the underwear beneath. He heard the shouts of the keeper behind him but he did not listen, he no longer comprehended the words. He waded farther in, slowly this time, pausing to let them see his pink skin and lifting his left leg to show them he was one of them. They scattered still to the perimeter of the shallow pool, squawking and making a show of their feathers. Wayne Irons knew he did not yet have feathers, but in time, he would adapt, they would see. He could be just like them.

The keeper threw the bucket of shrimp and fish into the pool and ran to the enclosure’s gate. The flock of birds half ran half flew to the pile of food near Wayne Irons and he felt the warm glow of acceptance. They wanted to be near him. They didn’t mind his presence. Wayne Irons threw back his head, stretched out his neck, and felt at once glorious and free.

Then Wayne Irons held his breath and dipped his head into the water around him looking for food like the rest of his flock. They were catching the shrimp quickly and swallowing them whole but Wayne Irons did not yet know how to fish under water with just his mouth while holding his breath. He knew he would learn though, if his flock would just give him enough time down there and leave a few shrimp for him to find.

It was ten minutes later when Le Grange came back with zoo security and a small crowd had gathered at the bird cage. A child in a red and yellow striped shirt and fraying shorts was standing there pointing in, “Look mama,” she said, “that man in there looks like a flamingo but he isn’t!” “Hush,” said her mother, as the man who looked like a flamingo with his head in the water buckled under the weight of his body and the lack of breath to his lungs. “We don’t talk about people in such a way.”

The man in the enclosure who looked like a flamingo but was not one sunk to his knees and then his belly and then collapsed completely, his head still under water, searching for food. The flamingos around looked for a moment and then walked away, disinterested in the giant pale, pink, naked body with a head of black hair. They stood together in another corner, on one leg each, preening their feathers with no thought for the man who thought he was a flamingo lying dead in their water pool.

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Written in response to this article in the New Yorker.


The muse used to keep me awake at night, pestering me with sentences too lovely to ignore, ideas too undeveloped to leave alone. Every conversation was his food, every challenge his dessert. He was relentless in my ear and eye, every “common bush was aflame” with possibility, every pedestrian thought was flint for his fire. I couldn’t not write. To not write was to not breathe.

The muse bedded himself a year or more ago. He comes out sometimes, when the moon is too lovely to ignore or my breath catches at the end of a poem, but mostly he hides. He is petulant and I want to drag him out, but a muse cannot be dragged.

Anne Lamott says the main work of writing is “butt in chair,” and that is the truest thing I know about writing, but I wonder sometimes if it is not so much the discipline of being still as much as it is the muse can find me better when I am still.

I am so easily distracted, like the Lewis quote everyone always mentions, “playing with mud pies,” ignorant of the offered holiday at sea. The mudpies feel more my style, the distractions, the things I know I can fill my time and energy with, but they mostly steal my time and suck my energy. They are not givers, not like my muse was once a giver. He was generous with his giving.

The muse comes most often when I listen for him and then give him permission to speak and then obey his words, no matter the cost. I have fit myself into a mold of writing because I listen more to the reader than the muse, and everyone says this is what we must do: to be writers we must write to the readers. I love my readers—I love you—but I loved my muse more, selfish as that sounds. I trusted him because I knew him and he knew me and we knew how to make beauty together. I have missed the beauty he knew how to knit and spin and bring, the poetry he made of everything.

“I have this against you,” Jesus said, “that you have forgotten your first love.” He was speaking to the church at Ephesus and speaking of the things they had loved once more than they loved themselves, namely the Holy Spirit. I have not forgotten my first love but I have forgotten how he roams in quiet places and times and is a giver and lover and comforter and helper. And how he helps with even the small things like writing and keeping my butt in my chair and seeing beauty in every thread of this steady, monotonous, straight line of a life.

I’ve been in Israel for the past ten days with hardly even a moment to jot down notes about my time there. In the meantime, all sorts of people were publishing words and phrases I put together anyway. The show runs fine without me. What a relief, right?

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If you’re a Christianity Today subscriber, you can read my short piece from the magazine online:

For most of us today, the endgame is simply to survive. Survive the family dynamics, the financial constraints, the season, and then sweep up the wads of wrapping paper, tear down the tree, and sit down with a glass of wine and declare Christmas “Finished!”

I was interviewed by the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood on singleness in the church:

It isn’t that he’s given the gift of marriage to others, and I’m the giftless kid in the corner. Today my gift is singleness. There’s a rhetoric in Church culture that assumes every single is waiting to be married, which may be true in some respects, but it doesn’t help us to treasure these days as the gift they are. In order for us to know these days are a gift, though, we have to see singles being utilized as they are, not waiting for a future version of them to materialize through marriage.

The Gospel Coalition reprinted this on ways to encourage your pastors (and families):

Not only will you never hear me say anything bad about one of my pastors (a single honor), I labor to speak well of them and to them every chance I get (a double honor). I want them to know I appreciate their investment in me, our church, the Word, and gospel initiatives.

. . .

Hope something from one of them encourages you. After this week I plan to land at home for the foreseeable future (this fall has had me gone more than I’ve been home), and hopefully that means I’ll be writing with more regularity (or at least better quality…).



Jared Wilson taught me that writing about God and theology doesn’t mean being pedantic and dogmatic.

Tony Woodlief taught me that writing about the deepest angsts of life doesn’t mean being gratuitous and salacious.

Madeleine L’Engle taught me that writing to children doesn’t mean writing down to them, but writing up to everyone.

Annie Dillard taught me to collect stones and tree branches, and write about the ordinary things. That the whole earth groans.

Frederick Buechner taught me to write things as they are and sort through them after.

Andree Seu taught me to write the bible into everything and that we are written into the narrative before the foundations of the earth.

Lauren Winner taught me to write about the wrestling and not just the wrestled.

Wendell Berry taught me about peace in the wild things.

Donald Miller taught me that every church kid has a story, a lens through which we see the church, and a choice about what to do with both.

Flannery O’Connor taught me to be a student of all people, their stories and surroundings.

As I look over this list, I do not see the names of people who will go down in history for their theological correctness, their practiced wisdom, or even their verbal acuity. They are not men and women for whom the Christian life came/comes easily, seamlessly, or without glaring sins and sufferings. They are men and women not unlike those we see in the Bible—broken sinners using what was or is in their hands to navigate faith in a world that groans for its maker. These are the writers and thinkers who did not teach me what to think, but how to think, and I pray I am better for it.

I write this because if you want to be a better thinker (and writer), don’t read the ones who have their thoughts all thought out, bound in leather with gold inset; read the ones who are still thinking out loud as they write. Learn to fish, as the old adage goes, instead of feeding on another’s catch.

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I cut my teeth on L’Engle and Dillard, mulled over O’Connor and Greene, struggled though four semesters of Shakespeare, found myself in the pages of Berry and Kingsolver. Good writing has carried me along. Good writing taught me more theology than six semesters ever did.

In the attention deficit world of the blogosphere, it can be easy to subsist on the crumbs. Comments back and forth, public discussion and debate, he saids/she saids, commentary on every public event that happens and quickly dissipates. This is the oil that keeps the machine running, greasy stories and grimy bits that catch our fancy for a moment and flee just as quickly.

I want the slow meal. The feast prepared with wooden cutting boards and whole foods, the juices of meats flavoring the whole. The spice. The wine. The tablecloth and the candles. Shoulder to shoulder, leaving the dishes for later, much later. The slow food.

Spotlights, whether by association or viral fame, do not a good writer make. Good writing is made in the kitchen, with the dashes and pinches, the taste-testing and stirring, ruminating and storing, aging and serving. Good writing sits and satisfies from the first bite to the last. It is a chocolate cake with a dollop of homemade ice-cream, from which only one bite is needed—because it satisfies.

When I lived in Central America the close of the meal was signaled by the head of the home saying, “Satisfecho.” It was a statement. I am satisfied. He would lean back in his chair, push back his plate, and we would sit there still, until all were satisfecho.

This is the writing I want to read. The kind that satisfies, that isn’t clamoring for more attention, for commenting, for debate, for the spotlight. It simply is. And is beautiful.



It is morning and early. Saturday morning is the only morning we can’t hear the traffic from 170, which can sound like a river, rushing and wild if I let myself think so, and no horns sound or brakes screech. The world is sleeping in.

In Texas they build homes with north facing windows, which is the exact opposite of the North (where we build homes with south facing windows), but which is a very sensible thing to do here. The only window in our home that gets any sunlight at all is the laundry room and so I have found my morning coffee tastes best in here, so long as I can keep lint dust from getting in it.

I sit on top of the dryer, my feet spread across to the washer. The sunlight falls on my fingers and I wish we didn’t need appliances and that this could be a sitting room, or a quiet room. At the very least it is a sunlit room, and for that I am grateful. Even if I am surrounded by detergent bottles, tool boxes, and ironing boards, and it smells a little like Downy Fresh and less like line-dried clothes.

A laundry room is a catch-all and I think that must be written in the bylaws of laundry-room-dom. We have a garage and I suppose that is a better place for hedge- clippers and drills and toolboxes. We have a pantry where, if we moved things around a bit, we could stock the plastic cups and spoons, and paper plates that we only use when there are too many people over, which is rarely, and so they go mostly unused. There are two baskets of laundry in here, both filled with towels because towels are an orphan thing in a home where nothing belongs to everybody.

It seems to me that it has been too long since I have shared anything with anyone. Everything I own belongs to me and I can discard of it quickly, no questions asked, which is good, because I have made a habit of discarding things quickly, without question. Sometimes it is towels or shoes, but sometimes it is the people I have grown tired of or ideas that seem less than ideal. I look back like Gretel at her pathway of breadcrumbs and wonder how many things I’ve left behind and if it was only so I could find my way back in the end?

Frederick Buechner, who is one of my favorite writers, said,

The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. But again and again we avoid the long thoughts….We cling to the present out of wariness of the past. And why not, after all? We get confused. We need such escape as we can find. But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need—not all the time, surely, but from time to time—to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us. The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.

This frightens me more than anything else, this looking back over the day, the week, the year. It frightens me because I know I have been an abysmal failure in so many ways, hurdling people and ideas, theology and homes. I have flitted through life, not easily, but escapedly, if I can coin a word. I have been like Gretel in my pathway leaving, but not in finding my way home ever again.

I tell myself that it is because I don’t know where home is, and that is true. If home is where I spent 19 years of my life, then that place doesn’t feel at all like home. If it is where I grew the most, there is nothing left for me there. If it is where I spent sleepless, weeping nights, I am afraid to return for all the sleeplessness and tears it might bring back. And if home is here, in Texas, where there are no east or west or south facing windows, then I will resign myself to sitting on the dryer in the laundry-room and I will try to be happy about it, all the while knowing that it isn’t home at all.

Buechner said that the name of the room is Remember and I can make a home there, with the memories. Because that is all we have sometimes, the clinging, hoping, inkling of a memory.

My memories are made of scents and sunlit rooms, inflections in voices and paper cuts. In those small things I can find a home, if even for a short while, just to visit, to call out to the echoing walls of my head, “Hey, I’m home!”

To eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on rye bread from the deli, just like Mom used to make it and to do a science project on the picnic table with Dad and to steal my older brother’s flannel shirt to sleep in. I will be at home in that place, for those moments.

But Remember is just a room, a catch-all for the things we have no space for in the rest of life. It is strewn with sunlight, if we let it, even in its less than glory moments, but it is just a room.

I think sometimes we want to live in that room, covered over by the clutter of what was done to us and what we’ve done, sitting amongst the dirty laundry others are so keen on airing. But after a while we have to leave, there is a whole house to be lived in, even if it seems windowless at times, there is a flow, and organization, and life, and coffee, and breakfast, and floors to be swept and laughter to be had, all in the home we name Today.

Penned originally for Antler. Published on December 20, 2012

600574_880963006576_124042678_nI’m beginning work on a project that will require having many, many meals in my home over the next year. The meals will not be for entertainment sake, but something of a deeper nature. My hope is to have different people over each time, with perhaps a bit of an overlap sometimes. This isn’t a community group or a way to build community (unless you do that on your own!). The purpose is selfish in that way—it’s for my own study and the project.

If you want to invite yourself over to my house, here’s what I can promise you:

1. Each meal will have a distinct purpose and an underlying message through what is served and how we interact over that meal—I will need people who will be willing to engage that purpose.

2. You may not like the taste, consistency, or content of the meal—but I can promise you that you will have the taste of something much more lasting in your mouth when you leave. (Also, I won’t poison you. I’m a good cook.)

3. This is not for one demographic. I don’t just want singles or women. I’d like families, older folks, seasoned believers, new believers, and unbelievers, men and women. You may be the only one of your demographic at that particular dinner, but I promise you won’t be the only odd one out. My goal is to make it as diverse as possible. If you’re a couple, or you have kids, or you’re a grandparent, or a divorcee, or a single—I want you!

4. Depending on which meal you’re asked to come to, it might require you to bring something. I would give you a heads up about that.

5. You get to be a part of a cool project and I’ll fill you in on more details when you come over!

If this sounds in the slightest bit interesting to you, or your curiosity is piqued just a bit, please fill out this survey (all results are private). I will be in touch with you about the first meal.

This project will span most of 2014 and my hope is to have between five and seven people per meal. There are a few meals that require a specific demographic, and if you fit into that demographic in any way, I will ask for you specifically (hence the survey). Otherwise, I’ll just send out an email when I have a dinner coming up and you can let me know you’d like to be included (first come, first serve). I’m also open to guests bringing guests, but we can talk about that nearer to the dinner.

If you’re from out of the area, but you’ll be in the DFW area over a certain period of time and you’d like to be included, OR you would like to host a meal in your own town and pay for me to get there, that would be AWESOME Sign up!

Thanks and looking forward to meeting many of you!

My first blog was on a Live Journal domain (remember those?). I took its name from a Burlap to Cashmere song that, to this day, I still don’t really understand the full meaning behind. I just knew I loved the three words strung together. The year was 2000 and my family was turned upside down in about a year. You name it, we experienced it in that year. I didn’t know where to turn, or to whom, and so I turned to anonymity.

I became a blogger.

In 2000 a blogger was either Jason Kottke, posting links to interesting content on the rising web, or it was an angsty teenager ranting about life. I wrote voraciously. Sometimes three posts a day. I didn’t care who read, or if anyone did, but I began to find a community of other bloggers. There was this brotherhood among us of sorts, people from all over the United States who stumbled on words not their own but which could be. I don’t have other words for it but divine. It was divine in the sense that it was almost otherworldly at that point. There were no dating sites, chat rooms were still a little strange, actually meeting someone in real life was rare and coated with suspicion. But it was also divine in the sense that it was a timely gift from God.

I spent years working out my salvation on the pages of the internet. By the time Sayable was birthed in 2008, I was one of the seasoned bloggers. My readership was still small by comparison, but in the annals of history, I was nearing mid-life at least. Every thought I’ve had about God has somehow been worked out on Sayable, or its younger siblings.

Writing is sanctification, if you’ll let it be.

This morning I opened my feed reader and read, as I do every morning. I find more and more often, I am just skimming. I open the posts with catchy titles or intriguing photos, so I am guilty of that which I complain of, I know. But I am so weary of the noise of blogging: the effort to churn out content instead of cherish the conviction.

One of my favorite quotes is by Lindford Detweiler, and I’ll never forget it. I love it so much that I screen printed it and it is the welcoming art as you walk into our home:

Music and art and writing: extravagant, essential, the act of spilling something, a cup running over…The simultaneous cry of ‘you must change your life, and welcome home.’ I’ve been trying to write songs again, and I’ve been hitting a maze of dead ends. I want the songs to reveal something to me, teach me something. It’s slow going. I’m not sure where I’m going. Uncertainty abounds. But the writing works on me little by little and begins to change me. That’s why I would recommend not putting off writing if it’s something you feel called to: if you put it off, then the writing can’t do the work that it needs to do to you. Yes, I think there’s something there. If you don’t do the work, the work can’t change you. (No one expects to change overnight.)

I’m weeping even now, as I read over that quote again by one of the finest lyricists I know. Here is a man who lets the writing do the work in himself. And I want that, friend and fellow writer, I want that for us. No matter what work it is that we put our hands to, I want it to do the deep work in us. The hard work, the cleansing work, the sanctifying work.

Blogging is hard work, I would never tell anyone otherwise, don’t make it easy by simply building a platform or gaining readers. That is not the point of blogging, and it is not the point of writing. We write to do the work in us, and God willing, in others. The publishers will use those big words about marketing and growth, but at the end of the day, those things will steal the soul of the writing you need to do.

Writing is sanctification and writing is God’s blessed gift to only a few of us. If you are a writer, don’t sell that sanctification for a contract or a deal. Turn your palms up, slow your mind, and do the upside-down work of the kingdom: your name always decreasing, ever increasing His.

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It was the his third strike. He was a baseball player, so he and I both knew what that meant. Out.

I was a TA for an English class in college. It was my first semester as a transfer student. I hardly knew my way around campus and I’d been tapped on the shoulder by the chair of our department to assist one of the English professors.

The first inkling of plagiarism seemed innocent, an uncited source; the second instance seemed lazy; but with two warnings under his belt, he handed in his third paper full of paragraphs I found in their entirety in a few minute google search.

I don’t know what happened to him when I reported the situation to the administration, though I knew they didn’t handle that stuff lightly. Looking back I wish I’d been more careful to explain why this wasn’t acceptable. I had plenty more opportunities in my years as a TA to do so, but I never did.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Allegations of plagiarism by Mark Driscoll are all ablaze right now and they seem justified in some ways. Whole ideas or outlines have been lifted, slightly altered, and used as his own material. I would flunk a student for doing that, and yet—haven’t I done it a thousand times?

In recent weeks I chew on John 3:30, “He must increase. I must decrease.”

Whether you’re a college student trying to get a passing grade or a pastor churning out books written by a ghostwriter, there is an element of “increasing” present that I’m not sure is healthy. I would argue too that even bloggers must wrestle with this dichotomy. If it is true that we must be ever decreasing and increasing Him—what does that say about all our platform building?

We may not be building a tower of Babel to reach God, but what have we made our god in His place?

This isn’t easy wrestle through. God gives gifts to men and finds joy when we use them for His glory—but I wonder sometimes how many of us are like my college student: trying to get a passing grade. It doesn’t matter who we seek approval from—if we seek it from men, we’re in sin, and if we seek it from God, we do so in vain. If we are His children, we have His full approval in the righteousness of Christ.

I have one finger pointed at you and three back at myself here. I seek the approval of so many other than God and I want less of it. More than ever, I want to shrink my footprint—or at least my byline. More of Him, less of me.

God help us, we are all guilty of plagiarism. The wise man’s words “there is nothing new under the sun,” assure of us that. You are the author of all truth and we merely regurgitate it, chewed and masticated, hardly a form of its original beauty and intention. Help us to copy you, emulate you, take our truth from you—and if another steals words from us, let us hand them over willingly because we truly own nothing apart from You.

I’m moving this weekend, have a conference for work all week, and a pile of due articles looming in front of me, so my mental acuity and creativity is somewhere below sea-level. Link-love it is.

Before the links, though, the more I read actual books, books over which authors have labored and sweat blood and tears, the less I find good writing on the web. This is sad to me because I think if we’re going to put content out there, it should be good content, it should be the best content.

Fellow writers: don’t write because you feel something must be said—it is far better for one writer to say one thing in the most winsome way possible, than for many content-creators to say the same thing many different ways and none of them win any. There is just as much glory to be had for the plumber, the pastor, the preacher, the preschool teacher, the parent, and the pediatrician as there is for the poet. It only depends on whose glory he seeks.

Now for some good writin':

Alone With My Thoughts: I’ve been alone in the car on some rather crowded highways. That, sadly, doesn’t mean I have been driving in silence. If my windows could talk, well, parental guidance is suggested.

Cigar Smoking and Grace For the Accountability-Holder: We are looking for grace from our accountability-holders. But we ought also to be looking to how we might give grace to our accountability-holders. Maybe we ought to strive for holiness and integrity in our lives not simply out of personal religious ambition but out of relational mercy, out of a desire to not make religious cuckolds of our friends.

Is ‘Background Information’ Ever Necessary to Understand the Bible? Others so focus on “background information” that they end up foregrounding what is in the background and backgrounding what is in the foreground.

There’s No Such Thing as a Writer (and other thoughts for those of you thinking about writing): It is of the utmost importance that one be humble before words. They have been around for a very long time, they are very powerful, and they are a gift from God.

When is a Royal Baby a Fetus? They find out they are pregnant, they see the two little stripes on the home test, and their heart drops. They don’t know what to do; they have no help from the man who impregnated them; they already work tirelessly, raise children, and have precious little in the bank. Though every life is precious, some are imperiled from the start.

Bending Toward a Rightness:

A number of my peers have recanted,
found God just too wild.
Oh they still rise to say the creeds but
there is no blood in their mouths.
I expected by now to learn the language of God
but I have only learned to love him.


Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 9.37.41 AMI just love this. That’s all. 

A few months ago I wrote an article that caused a bit of a firestorm among some of my writing compadres. Perhaps I gave it a provocative title, but I maintain its truth: Mark Driscoll is Not My Pastor.

Amongst the backlash of that article there was also a curious phenomenon on the twitter chat: the affirmation of the virtual church.

What was being espoused by person after person was the reality that they considered their online friends their church. “Twitter is my church” and “You guys are my church and my pastors” were among some of the statements I read. The definition of virtual is “Existing or resulting in essence or effect though not in actual fact, form, or name.”

Hear me out, one of the ministries to which God has called me is of the online variety. This blog and other publications I write for take a good amount of mental and spiritual energy. You are my ministry. But you are not my local church.

More and more I read articles lumping authors into clear and present camps. You have the Jesus feminists, the red letter Christians, the social justice-cause driven, the reformed, the story-tellers, the orthodox. There are these hard and fast lines boxing authors to a particular movement or theological framework, and once they have been flagged as such, they are blacklisted or embraced. There is little room for grace in this world because if I confess I agree with Rob Bell in this one area, that is a blight on my character to those who disagree with him. If I confess I agree with John Piper in this area, well, count me out of an entire sector of the blogosphere.

If we are in an age of the virtual church, then we are also in an age of virtual shunning.

You won’t ever hear me disavow the importance of the global Church. That I can consider someone who lives thousands of miles from me one of my closest friends—that is the power of the bond we have in Christ.

But love for the global Church does not negate the biblical importance of the local church. Too often I hear great passion in my brothers and sisters for the health of the Church, without seeing evidence that they value it at its most local level. I see bloggers calling men and women to task, and shunning those who associate with them, without seeing any accountability to authority in their own lives. I see much concern for orthodoxy and discipleship and brotherly love, without seeing evidence of those things in their lives.

I am not saying those things are not happening, what I am saying is that I don’t see it.

I don’t see it because they are not my local church and I do not know them in the way I know the people alongside whom I walk. I don’t see it because I am not privy to the conversations they have with their pastors (if they have pastors) or elders. I don’t see it because I don’t see them taking meals to new moms or visiting the sick or weeping with those who weep. Seeing those things is reserved for those who are not virtual, but real life, flesh and blood.

I’m writing this because too often the assumption is made that the virtual groups with whom I am associated are somehow the people to whom I am submitted. The assumption is we ascribe to the same set of theological ideals, we have discussions behind closed doors, spit-shake on how we’ll handle certain situations, administer church discipline and the sacraments together. And it’s simply not the truth.

I have pastors and a local church. I write for publications, enjoy friendships, but they are not my local church or my elders. Simply because a publication for which I write or a group of online acquaintances embrace a certain stance or ideal, does not mean I agree with them.

A year ago I had a conversation with one of my pastors. I met with him to discuss an opportunity put before me to participate in a publication where I would share the platform with some diametrically opposing authors. Should I do it? was my question. Yes, was his answer. Why? Because every opportunity we have to proclaim the gospel is good and we should prayerfully consider taking it. Some of the places I write, I write because I do disagree with their stance on certain issues. I write because it is my prayer that the gospel would go forth. My name doesn’t matter, but Christ’s does.

We proclaim Christ best by loving what He loves. What Christ loves best is the glory of His Father, and the Father is glorified when we are his disciples, when we love one another—at the most difficult, personal, beautiful level: right here, locally.

Love the Church, friends, but start by loving the church.


It’s strangely easy to be brave when nobody expects you to be. You are the deus ex machina, sweeping in and rescuing with your words, your actions, your bravado. But then the standing ovation comes and who can take a bow without feeling awkward and out of place?

Maybe you’ve noticed, or maybe you haven’t, but it’s been a little quiet around here. Or rather, it’s been a little less than deep around here.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Here’s what happened: a year ago this month I started working on a book and when you start writing a book people in the know start talking about your platform and your reach and whether there will be a market for your words. So instead of scribbling your words on scraps of paper and in the margins of life, crafting sentences while you drive and wait and walk, you instead start working on an author’s lifeline: readers.

Did you know that the real worth of an author’s work is not in her bound or published words? It’s in how many people read those bound and published words. No one wants to say that of course, except the publishers when they’re squabbling over whose mark will be on the binding. Everyone else still wants to talk about your words and how they are needed and unusual and pretty and pithy and such. But deep down you suspect the real worth of your words is what someone will pay for them.

Sometimes they will pay for them with their emotions and sometimes their pennies, but pay for them, they will.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A few someones have told me I am courageous and I look down at my person: can’t they see this? This frail and fearful lot? Can’t they see that whatever worth I have is not what I can do but Whose I am? I can put on a show, but the Author is the Finisher and the Principal Player.

I am studying Romans 6:13 this week, “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” The chapter is about sin and how we, like Christ, have died to sin—but what is sin if not the full spectrum of brokenness touching our every part? Hear me when I say I struggle to say fear is a sin, but whatever does not proceed from faith is sin, and fear is the lack of faith. See?

A year ago I took what had previously proceeded from faith and continued the work in fear: would I ever measure up? Would anyone important ever read me? What constituted success? Would I know it when it came? Would anyone care about a book if I even wrote it?

And now here I am, people expecting me to be brave and confident, to have the words and the theology and the answers, and the truth is, dear readers, I spent more time presenting myself to you than to God this year. Or at least more energy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discouraged. I can trust He is actually the God in the Machine and I am simply a gear or a bolt, or more likely a squeaky wheel or rusty washer, and we can move on from here (hopefully). I am not brave and I am not strong and I am not whatever good thing you think I am.

I’m just one person with words inside of me about a God I love and Who loves me and that’s the only story I have to tell.

And for His glory I want to tell it well.