Sunday, January 31, 2016

Epiphany, week 4: promises to all nations, hope to all peoples

My Epiphany daybook for these 5 weeks of witness. Join me, won't you? 

(Read here for a brief description of the liturgical season of Epiphany. See previous Epiphany daybook 2016 posts here)


The World

Paula Scher

Jeremiah 1:8-10 / Luke 4:24-28:  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD." Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, "Now I have put my word in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over the nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and pull down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant." / And he said, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian." When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.

all readings for the day: Jeremiah 1:4-10  • Psalm 71:1-6  • 1 Corinthians 13:1-13  • Luke 4:21-30

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (source)
O God, you spoke your word and revealed your good news in Jesus, the Christ. Fill all creation with that word again, so that by proclaiming your joyful promises to all nations and singing of your glorious hope to all peoples, we may become one living body, your incarnate presence on the earth. Amen. (source)


(Also, feel free to listen with me to my ever-evolving Epiphany playlist.)



This week, find a resource to help grow your understanding of God's plan for all nations to worship him.  The following resources have become invaluable for Brian and me as we pray for His "kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  

Operation World: the definitive prayer guide for every nation 

Join people from every nation, praying for people in every nation, sign up now and pray that the glory of God would fill the earth! You will receive daily prayer reminders for a different country or need somewhere in the world. 
Joshua Project: praying for unreached people groups. 
Subscribe to pray for an unreached people group every day.
Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: be a part of God's plan for Him to be loved by every people 
Find a class near you.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

A few reasonable words to start your weekend conversations. 01

Happy weekend, all! We're headed to a retreat center with a small band of people, and with lots of ideas about quietly befriending the lonely. (I'll also get to walk that labyrinth in my header photo again.^^^ ) What are your plans?  

Here's some food for thought for the conversations you have this weekend over brunch, at the kids' ball practice or on a little road trip. And if you and I happen to bump into each other in the next couple of days, I'd love to hear what you think after these reads! (or, you could always leave me a comment below!)

• from the archives:  Six years ago this week, Brian visited a small village in West Africa that changed our perspective on God and the Church forever.  Here's the post I share excerpts from a few of his breathless emails.
• A quietly stunning piece of culture-making and hospitality into grief: That Dragon Cancer, and finding grace in grief via Think Christian 
A question to ponder:  "But how can I write about any of this, how can I try and truss up the life we live half on purpose half by necessity? How do I explain how spare and unique this post-white-flight in-between city is? What the new face of poverty in America looks like, spread-out and scattered and lonely?" via D. L. Mayfield
• 51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences In Literature  Which is your favorite? What would you add? (full disclosure: I am terrible at remembering exact words of anything.  My kids and husband can pull quotes from every sort of movie, tv show, song, book out of thin air.  If you try to start this conversation with me about your favorite literary sentences, and you happen to ask mine I will probably respond something like this: "OH!  What was it?  It was so powerful, but understated and it made me feel a bit nostalgic.  It's in that book by that guy with the Swedish name.  I think there's a horse on the cover?"  This, friends, is why I blog.)
• And I quote: "I think that those who find Pinterest useless are using it all wrong." Just another reason I love this blog.  Also, read helpful ideas for a reasonably organized life. via Like Mother, Like Daughter
• Have you missed your life calling? Probably not. My friend Katie Fox wrote a beautiful essay on the subject of calling. She and I have had several conversations about this, as we encourage and commiserate with each other along the way. I could not agree more wholeheartedly with her very real and still hopeful conclusions. via The Art of Simple 

* For those wishing to embark on robust conversations about the intersection of feminist principles and pro-life convictions: Roe won the day, and sooner or later that day will end.  via Frederica Mathewes-Green at The National Review

If you're looking for a happy playlist to kick off your weekend morning, may I suggest my Morning playlist on Spotify?  What songs do you think I should add? 

Friday, January 29, 2016

{pretty, happy, funny, real} in January

| a weekly capturing of contentment in everyday life |

Today I'm inserting a little "normal" {p,h,f,r} post before the Series of Fortunate Events finale (the wedding!) I really and truly can not believe that we're in the final days of January. I know everyone says this, but this time I really mean it. How is it possible? We began the month in what we call in these parts "full twirl" - holidays, family & friends and wedding festivities. We're ending the month kind of quietly, which has its own profound beauty. Brian and I are headed to a retreat center with a small group of Christ Church friends intent on learning new ways to come alongside lonely and overwhelmed people. January brought a lot of goodness, with some moments of sharp sorrow interspersed. Through it all, we hope to be grateful.

A few photos to practice contentment this week

| pretty |

Morning light in two locations

I was caught by the January morning light on a table centerpiece in my house, and then in the mostly-empty church sanctuary during Friday morning Epiphany prayer service.  

| happy |

Slow Cooking Saturday

It's been too long since we've made a good, old-fashioned meal for company. When Brian talked with two of his co-workers (whom we'd wanted to have over for the longest time) about what we'd eat, they decided to each bring one part of the meal and we'd prepare it all together.  I guess the idea came when Brian bragged about his (amazing) GF Chicken parm, and they wanted to know how he made it.  So why not cook all together?  Bekah made a hearty, delicious salad.  Sarah & Drew brought the most delectable homemade ice cream I've ever tasted.  (better than non-homemade, too!)  We had to fight with the kids to get our fair share of that yumminess.

Visiting the Newlyweds in Houston

I promise we waited a whole two weeks!  Long enough for them to actually want company, we hope.  We filled the back of our van with remaining wedding gifts, furniture and odds & ends they'd left behind.  I loved seeing their sweet apartment, their wedding gifts in use (note the lovely cobalt blue glass in the foreground above).  They made us coffee in a new coffeemaker, and we sat around and looked at the gorgeous sneak preview pics their wedding photographer posted.  

| funny |

Wedding pics & gifts

Speaking of wedding photos, I tried to snap a pic of us all trying to look at the same exact pictures at the same exact time.  It wasn't an exact science, but it was worth a try! There was one gift left unopened - this dreamy Nespresso machine from my sister-in-law's very generous mother.  Don't you love that reaction?  

Brian's church office

No, he did not order this nameplate for himself. Yes, he has been known to say this about himself on occasion

Making mischief at Aunt T's house

Even though it seems like it's been months since our family visited from the Northeast, I keep stumbling on sweet little reminders that it wasn't actually that long ago.  Take, for example, the original artwork on the pillow case above.  

You've heard of Making A Murderer?  Here's our spin-off: Making A Mischief-Maker.  Judge for yourself and start cranking out the conspiracy theories.  I, for one, am still not sure which sweet angel is responsible.

| real |

Kendra made the Dean's List!

We are | real-ly | proud of her.  Also, I'm learning that mothers never stop wanting to cover their refrigerators with their kids' accomplishments.  Someone once told me that God has a picture of each of us on his refrigerator.  I'm pretty sure that was metaphorical, but I totally understand the parental impulse!

Epiphany dinner with Christ Church staff

Someone recently asked me what these years in Austin have meant (assuming we'll need to move again for my husband to serve as Rector after his ordination).  Austin has been about healing, hope, hardship, growing up to be more like Christ and more like our truest selves.  I said a lot more than that.

This group of people -- the Christ Church pastors, staff and their families --  are forever imprinted on our hearts and intertwined in our way of seeing the world.  Sometimes Brian refers to this staff as "lightning in a bottle". In other words, it's almost impossible to gather in one place or to hold onto for very long. For this brief time in our lives we were part of something really special. I want to celebrate that, even if we won't be together for much longer. The kingdom of Christ has no end, and our hearts will be forever held together with this group of people.

Have YOU captured any contentment this week? 
 I'd love to hear about it!

| Join in at P,H,F,R to see other wonderful people practicing contentment. |

Thursday, January 28, 2016

WALKING EPIPHANY in Community First! Village (east Austin): neighborhood notes from Bethany Hebbard

Welcome to the second annual WALKING EPIPHANY series of guest posts! I've asked a few friends who live around the world to take a walk through their neighborhoods, and share some of what they see through photos, videos and words. Each one has selected from a variety of thoughtful prompts to consider the ways the Light has moved into their neighborhoods. Will you join us?

Read here for a brief description of the liturgical season of Epiphany. See the 2015 WALKING EPIPHANY posts here. Also, don't miss the opportunity to engage with thought-provoking questions for your own neighborhood, listed at the end of this post.


The Hebbard Family
from Bethany Joy Hebbard (Wisdom's Workshop)

Prompt : Houses become homes

Houses become homes when they embody the stories of the people who have made these spaces into places of significance, meaning, and memory. Home is fundamentally a place of connection, of relationships that are life-giving and foundational. And that connectivity includes the past, for homes are shaped by memories of important transitions, events, and experiences. Once these stories are forgotten, there is no home to return to because there is no place, or even potential place, that could be shaped by those stories.

Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh

The story of my neighborhood is difficult to narrate: officially, it is a “master-planned community for the chronically homeless,” but you’ll have a better picture if you read the verse that inspired the non-profit Mobile Loaves & Fishes to build it: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15 NASB). This means it is a neighborhood designed in every way to facilitate community with and among its inhabitants, most of whom have endured chronic homelessness for much of their lives. For example, making the most of a temperate climate, the innovative “tiny homes” on the east side of the property have porches equal to (or larger than) their indoor space. Fire pits and other “gathering spots” invite neighbors to come outside and learn more about one another. Gardens sit at the heart of the property, and we all eat from them. At least once a day it seems I stop to ask a different neighbor how he or she likes to prepare greens and Daikon radishes -- both abundant in our winter gardens. 

Unlike a homeless shelter, the Community First! Village is not meant to be transitional housing, but a lasting, storied, home. As a sign of this permanence, a columbarium already holds the remains of several men and women who longed to live at the Village, but did not live to see it open. Strangely--or perhaps perfectly--it is right next to this monument that we have built a space for the children to play.


Prompt: Homegrown economy

Losing local businesses to national chains stores is by no means inevitable. Indeed, the growth of chain stores has been aided in no small part by public policy. Land use rules have all too often ignored the needs of communities and undermined the stability of existing business districts. Development incentives frequently favor national corporations over locally owned businesses. Increasing numbers of communities are rewriting the rules around a different set of priorities that encourage a homegrown economy of humanly scaled, diverse, neighborhood-serving businesses.... Active decision making at the local level and a creative approach to zoning can provide a powerful arsenal for defending community.

Stacy Mitchell

Though a farmer and a scholar by training, my husband and I have stepped into the adventure of running a bed and breakfast here at the Village. We hope that this “Community Inn” will become a true extension of the household (Greek oikos, from which our word “economy” comes) of this place. Thus, the Inn, like the rest of the Village, will aim to empower communities into a lifestyle of service for and alongside the poor. Our staff will consist of residents at the Village, providing them with meaningful work and useful income. Additionally, the Inn will house some of the Village’s micro-enterprise programs, such as soap making. We hope to become known throughout Austin for providing beautiful, useful household goods. Even more, we hope that by entering into our “homegrown economy,” our guests will be inspired to shape their own lives according to principles of localized, ethical, meaningful production and trade.


Prompt: Local ground

The likeliest path to the ultimate ground leads through my local ground. I mean the land itself, with its creeks and rivers, its weather, seasons, stone outcroppings, and all the plants and animals that share it. I cannot have a spiritual center without having a geographical one; I cannot live a grounded life without being grounded in a place.

Scott Russell Sanders

Though a native Texan, my parents moved when I was a baby, and I have lived and put down roots in many other places: I grew up among the smallwood forests and cornfields of Indiana, fell in love early with Appalachian hills and lore, spent my twenties as a grad student in central Texas and then, for three years, took a job and lived on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, where I thought I would spend the rest of my life.

Now, marriage and calling have brought me back to Texas. It has been a beautiful, bewildering, glorious, painful transition; each uprooting hurts more, and I am weary for my roots to find some depth and peace. Thank God the Texas winters are mild and greening. I feel the beauty of this place most now, as Epiphany reveals marvels in midwinter: the precious fragrance of southernwood and Satsuma; chamomile outside my door, as well as calendula and lemon balm, good for salves and lotions. Living in a refurbished RV, I feel the temperatures swing from frigid nights to golden afternoons: we may open the screen door tomorrow, but today I was glad for an excuse to light the oven and win some extra heat from it. The winds tonight make the whole house sway, but we brew our tea (mine with nettle, which grows abundant here) and enjoy jam from the wild Mustang vines I found in August. We settle in, wishing we had a hearth made from that beautiful hill country limestone. We dream about what we can build on this ground--this native soil, this home.


Prompt: Liked so much as this place

Ma hummed softly to herself while the iron smoothed all the wrinkles out of the little dresses. All around them, to the very edge of the world, there was nothing but grasses waving in the wind. Far overhead, a few white puffs of cloud sailed in the thin blue air. Laura was very happy. The wind sang a low, rustling song in the grass. Grasshoppers' rasping quivered up from all the immense prairie. A buzzing came faintly from all the trees in the creek bottoms. But all these sounds made a great, warm, happy silence. Laura had never seen a place she liked so much as this place.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

I’ve never seen a place I liked so much as this because this is a place where……

friends visit from afar,

beauty grows,

I learn new skills,

newlyweds grow into homemakers,

we live in community,

we celebrate holy days and seasons,

the heavens declare glory,

all creatures great and small find a home.


Bethany Hebbard (neĆ© Bear) is a minsters’ kid, PhD, newlywed, writer, maker, and teacher. Along with her husband, Steven Hebbard, Bethany lives missionally at the Community First! Village in Austin, Texas. She and Steven are the innkeepers for the Village’s Community Inn, which will open in the spring of 2016. Bethany blogs at

What about your neighborhood?

  • How does your neighborhood make spaces of significance, meaning and memory? 
  • How does your neighborhood preserve and embody it’s own story? 
  • Are there are any signs of a "homegrown economy of humanly scaled, diverse, neighborhood-serving businesses" in your neighborhood? 
  • If we walked around the block in your neighborhood, what would we see (hear, smell, etc.)? 
  • What are the "creeks and rivers, weather, seasons, stone outcroppings, plants and animals" that share your neighborhood? Put another way: If you were asked to coordinate a walking or biking tour of your neighborhood, what would you include in the tour? Also, how would the season of the year affect your itinerary?
  • In your own neighborhood, when do you have the sense that you’ve “never seen a place you liked as much as this place”? What does it sound and look like in those moments? Where are you walking when you feel this way?


      **Each of guest posts in the WALKING EPIPHANY series selected a few prompts from an overflowing folder of quotations I've saved from the Daily Asterisk.  Thank you,  *culture is not optional for all of your good work. **

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