A Winsome Giveaway

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Each morning when I drive through these ancient hills on my way to work, the sun is higher in the sky. I wander out into a wide awake world and daylight becomes the early bird. Time has a slippery way about it, and these days, I notice how quickly the seasons come and go. So when I get the chance to slow down—to change the scenery and open eyes wide to each moment, it feels like a celebration. That’s what the Winsome Retreat did for me last weekend—spoke kairos time into my chronos. I met so many amazing sisters, made new friends and caught up with old. I wanted to share a few of my new friends with you so you might celebrate with me also.

Jenn Hand is the executive director of Coming Alive Ministries and she is amazing. Jenn is a missionary with a heart for all God’s children. Did I mention she is hilarious? We laughed so hard when she gave her talk that my cheeks hurt after. And she is just the same at the dinner table as she is behind the podium. A genuine, generous, all-in-for-Jesus kind of gal. She tells the best stories and they always lead her listeners back to the heart of God.

Emily Dean is the founder/director of Varity Vareé, a multi-media business that takes everyday women and tells their story in a beautiful and new way. Each woman they feature participates in two photoshoots and an extensive interview. I asked Emily what gave her the idea for such a unique business. “I was doing a lot of modeling, “she said, “and I realized that when I did that work I felt like a canvas for the beauty other people wanted to project.” She wondered what would happen if every woman was given that opportunity to be in the spotlight. Varity Vareé was born out of her ability to see the beauty in every woman. She wanted to share those stories and lift them up as beautiful.  Our conversation got interrupted by Emily’s wee one—the tiny eight-week old infant she had with her at the retreat. She also sang with the worship team all weekend. A woman of many talents and much beauty.

Hilary Hyland is a photographer, artist, singer, and musician. She designed the Enough print that retreat attendees were gifted with. When I told Hilary how much her voice captivated me, she smiled and told me she had been hoarse the past few days! She said God was really using that to stretch her. But believe me, God made it work. Her earnest vocals pulled us right into the holy. Check out some of Hilary’s photography work here.

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Kim Hyland, founder of Winsome (mother to Emily and mother-in-law to Hilary) gave the opening keynote Friday night and she talked about how, as the body of Christ, we need each other and the unique gifts we all bring into this world. Winsome was a living, breathing example of that—each person there made the weekend lovelier and lovelier.

I’m still processing all the sweetness of the kairos time we had together. Because joy multiplies when shared, I want to give away a little bundle of books to one reader. Included: A signed copy of Jenn Hand’s 31 Days to Coming Alive and a copy of Deidra Riggs’s Every Little Thing (plus a couple extras). Deidra gave the keynote Saturday night and her message was Spirit-led and beautiful (just like her).

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Leave a comment by Thursday 4/21 for a chance to win. I’ll announce the winner next Friday.

A Prayer for Paris

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This morning, we reel from the attacks in Paris and I light a candle for the lost and wounded. I pray God’s comfort for the shaken world and weep with those who weep. My cheeks are chapped from the long walk in the wind last night and they drink tears thirstily. I lean my forehead against the window and watch the morning light spread like seeping tea. The air in our little valley is still restless and wandering leaves are soul’s bread. Did I once stand in those waving grasses, cheeks scrubbed pink and eyes full of blue sky?

On a morning like this I cannot help but think, what would I do without Jesus?

Yesterday, I read these words:

Organized religion is an attempt to communicate religious mystery to people who have not experienced it, and most often the task falls to people who haven’t experienced it either. What is deemed sacred in organized religion? Not the original revelation, but the robes, the ceremonies, the houses of worship, the scriptures, the ministers or rabbis. The original sacredness disappears in dogma and ritual—physical manifestations—that become holy in and of themselves and are worshiped long after their meaning is lost. Essentially, it is a form of idolatry. Furthermore, people who dare to proclaim themselves mystics or prophets, and declare they are in personal communication with God, are ostracized or worse. It’s ironic that religions now repudiate the very kind of people and dramas on which they were founded. As a result, the biggest threat to the religious experience may well come from organized religion itself.” ~Diane Ackerman, Deep Play

How arrogant, how flawed, how narrow-minded, I found myself thinking. This self-described “agnostic,” this “Earth Ecstatic” as she terms herself … how dare she? I wanted to close the book, boycott her words, shut out her self-absorbed, pleasure-seeking philosophy. She doesn’t have the faintest inkling about what it means to live a life of faith, I mused. And then I listened to myself. She doesn’t have the faintest inkling about what it means to live a life of faith! The self-righteous kind of view leaves me empty, separates me from other image-bearers of God. But when I look with love, when I look with compassion, my heart of stone is replaced with one as tender as fresh-churned butter.

It is true that often those who welcome mystery and wonder into their lives are the ones overlooked. They quietly sit in pews and marvel at the goodness of God. Yet, in the face of tragedy, these tender ones are mobilized. What if we show them what it means to live a life of faith? To be one body, to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn? Instead of judgment, let there be love.

God of the Universe,
you made the heavens and the earth,
so we do not call our home merely “planet earth.”
We call it your creation, a divine mystery,
a gift from your most blessed hand.
The world itself is your miracle.
The people of the world, our brothers and sisters.
Help us to see in their faces your presence.
Upon the people of France
may your stars rain down their blessed dust.
Comfort, comfort your people, O Lord.
(adapted from Blessing of the Land or a Garden, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)