Friday, April 1, 2011

In a sycamore…

I am up a sycamore

Looking through the leaves

A sinner of some position…

Joni Mitchell, The Passion Play

"You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

The Lord God, Gen. 3:16 – 17

Adam and Eve, Carlos Botero

Adam knew better. Some scholars have suggested he was by Eve’s side by the tree while the whole transaction with the devil-in-a-snake came down. He listened to her dialogue with the serpent; he watched her reach for the fruit. He saw the juice run down her forearm. He accepted her offer to take a bite. HE WAS PASSIVE. He chose silence. By eating, he chose himself over God.

Eve knew better. She said as much to the talking snake when offered fruit from the forbidden tree and even added to the original command: “I can’t even touch the fruit of this tree” just for an extra measure of precaution. SHE BELIEVED A LIE. From the devil, no less, of course he fathers lies. She chose the deception. By eating, she chose herself over God.

The serpent uttered his first words. What were they? A question for Eve to cause her to doubt God. HE QUESTIONED GOD, despising His authority. He killed, he stole, he destroyed.

This is the anatomy of the fall.

I’ve taught this story many times. It isn’t uncommon to hear someone say, “I would NOT have done that… I wouldn’t have listened to the snake and eaten from the tree.” I used to think the same way.

But at the core of this act of disobedience lies the true problem you and I share. We choose ourselves over God. That is at the root of our sinful choices and thoughts and passivity.

I used to wonder why God would make humankind with the potential to sin. In other words, by instilling free will in man, he could conceivably disobey Him and eat from the forbidden tree. A yellow rose cannot choose a new color on a whim. It will just stay beautifully yellow, thank you very much. So why make such a creature? I finally came to understand that it was for love.

The potential to sin has a flip side, and that is the potential for adoration and love, freely given. To make it impossible for man to choose himself thereby preventing personal rejection is prescribed love and God would have none of that. He wanted His creation to choose to love, believe, honor and obey Him.

Death did come to Adam and Eve. Three ways. Physically, spiritually and eternally.

Their bodies died, granted not right away. They lived over 900 years! They populated the earth, toiled and labored for their food, and watched the decay of their bodies as we do now. Their bodies returned to the dust.

They died spiritually – separated from God. They were removed from their home. Ohhh. I grieves me to write it. Can you imagine this? This was an act of mercy as much as an act of discipline. Adam and Eve were being protected from themselves! Had they eaten from the tree of life, might they have tasted immortality in their fallen states?

Adam and Eve’s death was eternal. They were not “grounded” from their bodies for a month. Their bodies returned to the dust. Their separation was eternal, save the work of the Redeemer Jesus in whom every person of faith finds their salvation – all those who lived before Christ, their faith was credited as righteousness. Verily, (did I really use that word?) the hint of their ONLY hope came in Gen. 3:15 and 21 where the only VICTOR over death was foretold.

When Isi was just 5 years old, 9-11 happened. It was her very first day of kindergarten. We were in devotions when a cryptic prayer request was issued by the headmaster that something awful had happened. We all know this devastating story.

So many blamed God. How could a loving God let this happen? Where was He? And so on and so forth.

As I unpacked this life-shaping and life-changing event with Isi in the days to come, I told her that those terrorists crashed into the towers because Adam ate the apple. We don’t need to blame God. We blame Adam!

It is a mystery, but sin and death and brokenness entered mankind because of the sin of Adam and Eve, which was to choose themselves. Those airplane bombers chose themselves over God, over love, over peace.

I opened this post with the lyric from one of my all-time favorite songs by Joni Mitchell. She references Zaccheus, a tax collector who was vertically challenged, they say. He climbed up a tree to see Jesus going by through a thick crowd.

Oh, climb down, climb down he says to me

From the middle of unrest

They think his light is squandered

But he sees a stray in the wilderness

And I see how far I’ve wandered.

We have wandered so far from, “oh, you are VERY good… I don’t want you to be alone, it’s not good for you… here is your soul mate made from your flesh…work and name, tend, organize, innovate together… with freedom and creativity… have lots of babies… taste everything… you won’t ever get bored there is so much variety… I’m in the garden with you…”

I’m really tempted right now to make you feel better about this whole mess. But, God Himself waited 4000 years from the mess in the garden to fulfill the prophecy in Gen. 3 where Jesus was promised to come and crush death. So I’ll wait for a few posts as we look soberly at why after so illustrious a start as humans, we have all found ourselves sinners of some position.

Christ’s beloved,


Saturday, March 26, 2011

God's weekend plans

Rest in the fields, by Duy Huynh
Gen. 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

“Knees” in the dirt, soil in His “nails”, sun on His “back”, perhaps a sustained exhalation from His “lungs” to create His beloved – Adam. Very good! Done!

What did God do next? What did He do that weekend? He RESTED.

Rest for God? Why? Did He need it? Was He tired?

First of all, we know that God does not have a body like we do (John 4:24). The use of anthropomorphic language in the bible is so we have a chance to grasp the mystery of His being.

When Moses asked to see God as told in Exodus 23, God explained no one could see His “face” and live. He tucks Moses in the cleft of a rock, covers his face with His “hand” and then allowed Moses to see His “back”. He tells Moses that He will see His glory and His goodness pass before him.

Moses sees the wake of God’s goodness as His being passes by. Everywhere God goes you see the trail of how good He is. Look back – can you see it? Even yesterday – can you see the wake? Is this not GLORIOUS?!?

So a God without a body like men with a “face” that could kill? HE does not need rest.

He rested to model for us what we are to do. He wants man to do the same. He “hallowed” the day of rest – set it aside. This day is called the Sabbath. He rested and was REFRESHED, adds Ex. 31:17.

Notice that work and rest are in existence at the beginning of time before Adam and Eve fell from grace! Rest is not a concession for broken-down man, not a sign of weakness. Rest is enjoyed and intentional, even in a state of edenic perfection.

Gen. 2:2 links His work with His rest. Reading around this text you see the Godhead enjoying and declaring how good the work is. On this day of rest, savor the work you have done all week of “creating” - caring, tending, resolving, nurturing, referee-ing, wash-lather-rinse-repeat day in and day out on all of the above…

Who is resting? God is in community. He is with Himself, with His Son and the Spirit. They work together. They rejoice together. They are satisfied with their work. Then they chill together. You – you rest too! With your chickadees, roosters, hens – I am of course writing from the birdhouse…

Here’s more – the Sabbath is:

  • every seven days (Ex. 20: 9 – 10)
  • for a sign that we’re His – we are HIS birds. (Ex. 31:13)
  • for us to remember God’s wake of goodness as it passed by over the last 6 days (Deut. 5:15)
  • for us, not us for the Sabbath – in other words, it does not have to be a new measuring stick in your life – if your donkey falls in a pit on the Sabbath, go get it! (Mark 2:27)
  • a picture of what heaven will be like (Heb. 4:1 – 11)

Now I know what real estate an ENTIRE day out of a week can be. I am trying to grow in this area. I’m not good at it, but I want to be. I mentally think of sundown Saturday as the end of my workweek thus the beginning of the Sabbath, and sundown Sunday as the end of the Sabbath. If the house is messy, it’s messy. My friend Sophia once said, if you want to see me, stop by anytime. If you want to see my house, make an appointment. Leftovers, planning ahead, or going out to lunch – that can take care of food. Just BEING, napping, reading, worshipping… remembering, savoring, accepting God’s invitation for His weekend plans.

His beloved,


Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Nest

darien olivares photography c 2009

I found this blog post on the floor in my living room as I was vacuuming. Not on paper. But there it was as I pushed the machine over my plush bold and patterned rug from India. Normally I am not thusly inspired by so ordinary a task. Moving gym shoes and ottomans out of suction’s way, and refolding the chenille throw, I thought about the lives that fill this room everyday. They are, after all, my favorite people. This is our nest, our habitat, our biome (been helping JP with his science lately, can you tell…) After I vacuumed I took myself on a walk and took these thoughts with me under the vast canopy of spring air today. Glorious.

Have you ever noticed that when God began the work of speaking everything into being, He made habitat first. The waters He divided: some water for up above and the rest as oceans, rivers, lakes. He pushed the water below to reveal land, some mountainous, some sandy, some forested.

Then He decided to fill the sky with every winged bird you’ve seen and not. He gave the songbird an expanse in which to soar. Of course the land produced vegetation and then every herbivore, carnivore and omnivore we can name. From zooplankton to the humpback whale the oceans teemed! Mmmph!

After His poetry of words resulting in winged, finned and legged creatures came the creation of us. He used His breath to make us.

He was thinking about the life you would live here on earth, the air you would breathe. He knew your quads would be strong and your fingers dexterous. The pleasure you would derive from fresh mangoes and jicama, (my new discovery), and the maturity required by you to appreciate cod fish for the oil we’d need from it’s liver – natural vitamin D at it’s best. He also declared which “trees” were out of bounds for you to eat from.

He provided you with shade and wind, heat and light. He instilled circadian rhythms in you, with melatonin levels rising as the sun begins to fall so you can sleep, then your body naturally rising with the sun. He gave you a drum beat for a heart that functions magnificently, and a respiratory system regulated so that you never over or under breathe. He knew you would be hungry several times a day and knew you would delight in His fare. He took care of all of this for you.

He established our home in a lush and well-watered garden all the while thinking about the needs of your body, mind and spirit. You inhabit an ingenious fleshly body in an extraordinary ecosystem. He gave you a mind with tasks to work – to tend and name, organize, innovate and discover. Work is good and ordained from the start. The garden would be tended by man. He would eat from it and enjoy it. He knew it was not good for us to be alone so like Himself, gave us community, family, friends, relationship -- all these within which you love and are loved, stay warm, soothe and challenge, and so on and so on. This topic is truly inexhaustible.

Your home is your "biome" you have created. Everyone in your home is body, mind and spirit and must be addressed as a whole person. How does your home reflect this?

As I tended to my nest today I thought about what a job it has to do, being small and all. To accommodate the work of the mind and the needs of the heart. Space for play and discovery, and a place for rest.

Some of this is design and lay out. Our ranch house does the best it can, by gum. But the attention to architecture is truly only a small portion of what makes your nest your nest. Is there beauty? Is there true beauty afforded by peace in your home? Is there space to be you? Is there a call to participate in the community together through some semblance of regular meals together? Is there rhythm? Is there a sense that there are boundaries and “trees” one must not “eat” from? Is it expensive to blow it or can everyone at home feel free to be humble? Can you tell if someone in your family is lonely? Can you drop what you are doing like Peter did today, parting from a riveting book because he saw I needed him? Are we reading one another?

Is this a parenting blog?

Stick with me. I promise that I will get practical. But I’m starting big by saying, “let there be light!” in our thinking to recognize that the stage was set for our lives in our habitat. This is no small thing and has a profound impact on how our stories unfold.

The nest in the picture is what our little Jo Jo carried down the aisle as our ring bearer. How fitting that our rings were carried in a nest, made by my amazing artist sister Linda Yarzagaray. The first thing that filled our nest was a promise to be faithful, to be forever for one another, and to love and serve God, no matter what. This is the first and most important adornment of our nest.

One of Christ’s beloved,


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bird Dust?

A reference to dust bunnies at the Bird House?

“Bird Dust” is actually a theological extrapolation based on the reply of an astute preschooler during devotions at Mustard Seed Preschool in Franklin, TN.

I was teaching, down on my knees, trying to make Genesis 2 as real as possible. We were actively imagining God creating the world. We looked keenly at the earth (synthetic patterned navy carpet) to watch the wild animals, cows and chickens and birds emerge from the ground. The following week I asked the kiddos where monkeys came from and an enthusiastic little 4 year-old theologian blurted out, “monkey dust!”

Hence my extrapolation – birds must therefore come from bird dust!

Here is one of my "birds" emerging from the "dust" of Westport Beach, MA, last summer... i just love this... if you get on all fours you'll see her wings in a minute...

Ha! Anyways... whether or not this original Edenic acreage was subdivided and titled by genome - cougar dust in the southlands, lizard dust in the desert... I’ll never know but it sure is a fun idea.

What we DO know from the Word is that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in complete joyful communion with one another formed every creature from the dust of the ground! Every single creature.

When it was our turn to be created, the Father formed the first man from the dust of the ground and then blew into his nostrils the breath of life. One breath started people! ONE BREATH has sustained humankind. Woah.

Our bodies come from the dust, our souls, our spirits come from the very breath of God Himself. No other creature has this distinction.

Why did He make us?

One reason is “for His glory” or in other words, to display His greatness. Is. 43:6 -7 says, "Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made.”

You were made to show how great He is. Your dependence on His very breath, the fragility of your frame which is spectacular and yet made from dust. Your smile and your tears – the complexity of your emotions. Your ability to reason and to innovate. Your desire to be in community with others, to be loved, needed, and to love others. Your muscles, the impermeable nature of your skin, your throaty laughter, your humor… what a marvel is humankind. And if you question whether saying so detracts from the Creator, fear not. When we stand in awe of His handiwork standing on an ocean shore, the thought hardly enters in, “aren’t I incredible?” We rather boast in the Artist-Mariner Creator.

We are absolutely magnificent creatures that certainly display His greatness. This shock of curls on my head was His idea (please somebody remind me that I just said that when I complain about the fuzz...) Your daughter’s irrepressible smile. The “knowing” look a baby’s focused gaze can sometimes communicate. A young person’s ability to memorize song upon fact upon story. Unbridled laughter and joy, simple trust and belief. Amazing.

God made us as He did because He wanted to reveal what He is like. That is one of the purposes of creation. Read Romans 1:20. He reveals Himself through His Word, His creation, and through His Son. These are windows through which we can understand who God is.

He specifically said in Genesis that man is made in His image, male and female. It takes both to display His image. God has attributes or qualities that make Him – so – GOD! He can be everywhere at once, knows everything, sees everything, can do anything. We cannot. These are called "incommunicable" qualities. He wants us to glorify Him for these.

But the attributes we call “communicable” -- these are the ones He lets us share in. To love, to feel, to respond to human need, to desire relationship, to appreciate beauty, to want justice, and love mercy. Oh and so much more. He wants us to bear forth His image with these to a watching world.

Now. When your child does that annoying thing again that drives you to distraction or worse, consider… "what are the image-bearer qualities that I see in my child at this moment? Can I see past the negative behavior to the heart of what is driving him to be this way right now? Is this a cry for community? For justice? For love?" Appreciating this might alter your response, or shall I say, enlarge it. Your child who was made for complete wholeness and unbroken relationship with God lives in a post-Adamic world of grief and sin and selfishness and preoccupation. Sin short circuits much.

This subject deserves deeper treatment, and before you turn into bird dust reading my long post, I will close with an encouragement to look for the revelation of God’s communicable qualities as well as marvel in His handiwork with those around you. I want to keep unpacking how to look at your world through the four-part paradigm of the Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation, spending some good time in this creation theology.

Stay tuned for more from the Bird House.

Love from one of His beloved,


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bird’s Eye View of the World

Sue, my daughter’s art teacher, told me she has seen lots of bluebirds today. We wondered if it had anything to do with the rain. “I don’t know”, said mother hen (me), but how awesome to observe them. We stopped matting student artwork for a minute and paused to enjoy the view from her art room picture window -– a misty, grey field edged by woods.

Those blue birds have the gift of flight with the ability to soar in the vast expanse of sky. Birds overcome pull and drag and gravity which only happens to me over honey-roasted peanuts on a Southwest cabin-pressured flight. Oh for such perspective!

Yet in a different kind of internal expanse there is an “aerial view” of sorts. It is called a worldview. It is often mistaken for a position, like being a Republican or Democrat, or a value like being pro-family or pro-choice.

Think of a worldview as a lense through which you see all of life. Through the grid of Scripture these are corrected lenses and everything seems to make more sense.

Many years ago I was taught to consider the four-part paradigm of the Creation, Fall, Redemption and Consummation (or ReCreation). To understand each of these events with their causes and effects is to begin a journey of truth leading to freedom. In the coming days I will write about the first of these.

I wrote a song in an effort to encompass this worldview. It is God’s story in four stanzas. I paired each of these stanzas with images of the four seasons. I’ve entitled it simply, “The Story”, as it is THE story from which all others are derived.

Here is the lyric:

The Story

By Diana Beach ©2008

Out of the nothing, heaven and earth
Summer good and Eden birth
In the beginning all was fresh
Word gave life, Word gave breath
Shimmer and sparkle and shine
Joy be Three in One Divine

Into the broken autumn chill
Wood and fruit and venomous will
First man Adam, innocent Eve
Juice-stained face of the deceived
Shimmer and sparkle and shine
Man has traded the divine

Deep to the womb of simple flesh
Hope’s a babe at Mary’s breast
Bread and wine and ringing nails
No winter tomb of death prevails
Shimmer and sparkle and shine
Jesus saved this heart of mine

Verdant splendor new heaven and earth
Tongue and tribe in spring of rebirth
Desire of His bidding robed in white
To wed and feast and drink from the vine
Shimmer and sparkle and shine
Wedded into Joy Divine.

Okay so now immona sang fo’ you. (the video is at the end of this post). This is my living room which is fairly clean at the moment, nothing sticky today. Dearest Peter is recording me and JP is watching a slide show of family pictures on TV through his Xbox and thinks the song is a good soundtrack. I like that.

I did NOT retouch my makeup – it’s just my natural beauty (okay just kidding, just had to say that). Behind me is a giclée of my friend David Arm’s commissioned work entitled, “God’s Story”. It is truly amazing – a gift to me by a very dear friend after I was widowed three-plus years ago.

I could blog about this painting for days but instead I’ll point you to a link if you care to learn more about it and get a much better view of the real thing:

I am so romanced by the Story. It is so beautiful and tragic, humbling and renewing. It starts and ends with hope. I found my true God in this Story (abandoning the sorry one I had made), and subsequently my true self, purpose, and freedom as well.

I encourage you to press into yourself regarding the worldview you are living from. If you are not so sure about what your paradigm is, my hope is that you will overcome some drag and pull and alight into the expanse that is there for you.

With love for you,

One of Christ’s beloved,


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sticky floors at the Bird House

This chunky, funky wooden plaque was given to me by my almost 15 year-old daughter after a weekend with pals serving, waiting, and busing tables for hundreds at Young Life’s Windy Gap Camp. She presented me this wall art and I let out my best Hispanic squeal of absolute delight!

Sticky floors – all too familiar – check.

Dirty oven – not so bad at the moment but give it a minute… check.

Happy kids?! Oh may it be!!

To receive this from my lovely, mostly-happy daughter was so significant. She gets it. Life, home and family – these are not about appearances. They are about relationships and investing deeply in them.

Our little home at any moment is in the throws of life being lived together. Foam and paint, glue gun and exacto knives covered the kitchen counter for 10 year-old Lina’s Cardiff castle model. It is an art gallery for homemade valentines love letters we exchange every year over dinner on our best china. Once the living room was hi-jacked by me and 5 year-old Jo Jo’s zoo made up of shoe boxes, cookie racks for gates and stuffed animals. Or Dad and Isi making chocolate and vanilla checkered shortbread cookies. We are often on the floor, couch or the kitchen playing, being, building, talking, “ref-ing”, laughing – hence the sticky.

Three things last forever – people, God and His word. To invest in these three things is an investment with infinite returns.

A good mom - THAT is what I want and hope to be. If you are a mom or dad, don’t you hope your children will say you are a good parent – a great parent?

So what does it mean to be a great parent? You might already guess that since I’m posing the question, I’m gonna take a stab at answering it.

It begins by parenting from principle rather than rule. To believe that your child was created by the Triune God to display His greatness. That Adam and Eve eating that blasted apple changed everything in us all. That Christ came to remove every obstacle that stands between us and the Father so we can BE His, to BE with Him and in Him; and that the hope of heaven is so real it has implications on what to eat for dinner. For real.

These principles are based in immovable truths that literally change the way you think and interact with your world. Basing your parenting decisions on these principles that become your convictions creates an environment within which your family will thrive.

As my husband Peter and I have been reflecting on what we are learning through parenting, and sharing our stories and experiences with others, we settled on TruthBilt as the umbrella name of our ministry to families. We hope it communicates the essential fact that in order to be a good parent one must be established and rooted in the truth about who we really are, why we are really here and what our role as parents really is.

“Sticky floors” hopefully means that I am accepting the invitation of one of our little birds to BE together. And there is no substitute for this time to display our love for them, for life in Christ, and our commitment to spend ourselves for the sake of their growth, maturity and security.

One of Christ’s beloved,