Friday, December 30, 2011

It Just Takes Some Time...

For my girls.

And anyone else for that matter. 


Musings at the Church Christmas Concert

God took His love, and made the Infinite as small as a

...and wrapped it in flesh
(bruisable, betrayable flesh)
And lived His love among us


we ripped at the packaging and
tore open the gift...

only to find
and forgiveness inside.

He does not and will not take away
our will, in order to turn us into
automatons or

but He gives us the freedom to choose...
and when we chose

He set Himself in the middle of our path,
bent on destruction
and willingly received the brunt of our choice of
"not God"
canceling out all our hurts, and hurtings
("by his stripes...")

to present us with a new way ("I am the Way...")
With all our errors forgiven
and erased
and placed in our hands the
Freedom to do the same.

To give out of the abundance of what
we've been given
and not be black holes
of need

To love with the same abandon
To be an oasis of safety
in a very
unsafe world.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:9-10
Oh God. Help me to love like You do.

Arm's Length

photo by Leo Reynolds

on a winter's night
my eyes met hers and I recognized
in the mirror

The iron backbone
The guarded words
The arm's length

The just-one-more-day, Lord
...and tomorrow, again

When those you have laughed with
and cried with
and loved
and trusted
and let in the door

turn on you with all the serpent's venom
    (truly, it's NOT theirs...)

it is hard to open the door again
once you feel you have finally
got it
of them.

"To love is to be vulnerable" - CS Lewis

Estrella del Mar

Shakespearean Fish

painted on Jess Begin's bathroom wall, '06?


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jesu, Joy...

Wohl mir, daß ich Jesum habe,
o wie feste halt' ich ihn,
daß er mir mein Herze labe,
wenn ich krank und traurig bin.

Jesum hab' ich, der mich liebet
und sich mir zu eigen giebet,
ach drum laß' ich Jesum nicht,
wenn mir gleich mein Herze bricht.

Jesus bleibet meine Freude,
meines Herzens Trost und Saft,
Jesus wehret allem Leide,
er ist meines Lebens Kraft,

meiner Augen Lust und Sonne,
meiner Seele Schatz und Wonne;
darum laß' ich Jesum nicht
aus dem Herzen und Gesicht.

Praying for a friend this morning, the title of this song came to mind... in English... though now I'm not so sure it was for me instead of her.

The original is so much better.

How is it that God knows
       What we need to hear... and when? 

Danke, Jesu.

English translation found here.  
... make sure to scroll below the German text.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Yours Truly

Larger than life.
Always kind.
Always loving.
Always knowing the right thing to say.
Never tired

That is the wound.
That the biggest fear.
That I will be weighed and found wanting.

Hence these stones in my pocket.


I thought they were put in my hands by others
when perhaps expectations weren't met and
grace ran out.
and stony silence filled in
the hole where friendship once was.

but perhaps I was the one to stoop
and gather them up.

If I threw them all away,
Would you still want me around?

“Got a reputation with everyone. But I don't want one with you.” 
- Derek Webb

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” - Jesus

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” - John

Freedom... and freedom from fear

fact? or fiction? it ok that I'm not there yet?

God. For knowing and still loving... I adore you.

and you? what are you afraid of?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Stupid Law.

How is the law so insidious?

Even knowing the truth that it's all about grace, that it's all about faith and NOT works, - the law had crept back into my life. 
I mean – it's about who I am, I know – but what I DO matters too, right?
...I almost didn't notice it.

I was priding myself on seeking to please God, and Not going easy on sin in my life – not a bad thing. Actually neither of those are bad things. But as has been pointed out to me time and time again, it's not the bad thing in life that sets itself up against the best – it's the good. The almost-best. That tricks us and tantalizes us – Eve did not bite into a piece of ugly or rotten fruit.

A few days after a dear friend told me that I was being too hard on myself – and I brushed them off with a mental but self-righteous, “how could they understand?” – God hit me. Very gently. Like He always does... 

It started with another friend who had just bought a book – and it looked good. So I borrowed it for two days... 'cause-I-don't-really-have-time-to-read-it, but-I-could-skim-it... and I ended up keeping it for two more days and not being able to put it down. One thing the author said JUMPED out at me: 

“given the choice to please God or trust God, good girls become conflicted,... [it is like] a fork in the road. The marker to the left simply says Pleasing God. The one leading to the right reads Trusting God. It is hard to choose one over the other, because both roads have a good feel to them... it becomes obvious that we will not be able to jump back and forth between the two paths. We must choose one. Only one.”

“But isn't trusting God pleasing Him too?” you might ask... and rightfully so. I mean, that's what I thought at first, so it must be ok... :) ... but what's your motivation?

Here's the problem:

What if you already were pleasing to God?

What if He already delighted in you? I mean, He made you – so might it not stand to reason that He actually likes you? Then taking the path “Pleasing God” would be like trying to buy something that you already had. Or taking a gift back to the store and trying to pay for it again. Why would you ever want to do that?

God has been hounding me for the last four years with the statement, “Crystal, you can't earn love. You can't. Can't do it.” And I halfway understand Him... but then try to do just that, again. Please Him. Please others. Again.... And then I feel like I'm failing. Again. And I try to run away. Or hide. Or pretend that all is well... But... What if He already were pleased?... how dang freeing would that be...? To just be loved by Him... and to love in return... even if it were imperfectly? And then how much easier to trust Him... if His love truly. is. unconditional?

I was reminded of a teaching about Jesus that hit me hard once, 
waaaaay back:

Before He did any miracles, before he healed any sick, raised any dead, preached any sermons, restored sight to any blind... before He walked on water and waaaay before He laid His life down, God looked down from Heaven and said, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” Before it all. Before he did anything to earn that.

Sure, you say, but wasn't Jesus perfect? He didn't do anything bad either...

[Oh, Perfect. Something that, alas, I never will be this side of Heaven...

praise God. I so want to be, it is an unholy addiction.]

Yes, He was. And because of that, I am ok too... because He shielded me as I was in the path of a righteous and holy and perfect God ... and all the imperfect things I ever did, am doing and will ever do were nailed to that cross with Him – and they don't count against me anymore. None of it. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Nada. Zilch. Nul. Nothing. The only thing that counts is the stuff that's for me... that I'm His daughter. And that He made me. And that He likes me. And that I can trust Him.

So. I think I am going to practice this. Waking up every day and saying Thank You, Father for being pleased with me and for loving me, just as I am.  And tell Him that I really hope to hear Him and follow Him around, seeing what He does. 'Cause I know He loves me. And He wants to be with me (Jesus said so!). And maybe by being with Him, He'll rub off on me... and people will feel safe around me - like sinners felt with Jesus - and loved - like I am learning to be.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Merry Everything, friends.

ps. If you're the kind of person that wants a ton of scripture to back up stuff, GREAT. Hit me up and I'll send it all painstakingly detailed your way.

Friday, December 16, 2011

rainy snow days and gratitude

It started this morning; almost forty degrees outside and still the white flakes swirled about, an answer to an irrationally selfish prayer: "Just one more glimpse, please God..."

Then at Gram's doctor's appointment, a sliver of a gift, pie-size hope for an appointment of my own before going back to Peru... and budgetable as well.

On those heels followed the news that my afternoon AND evening plans were cancelled...

and a snow day was born at noon.

...with the same eager, 
that I felt as a teacher with no pre-plans, just the ones spontaneous, and wonderfully made...

And why should it surprise me that it's less than two weeks before take-off 
and there's still God-room for spontaneity?

And I got to grab coffee with S... while blowing silly kisses to K, who beautifies even the DunkinDs uniform, 
and I am grateful for her heart of gold to lend me the book 
she had just bought the day before.

And got to drive to Orland and snatch my favorite Grecian goddess from her turret and just wander with the two sisters in Bangor stores, semi-aimlessly among aisles and alleys, laughing over corny product names and smearing our upper lips with love...
that I can still smell when I walk outside...

And out came stories of the past and the present, slipping through the cracks of words spoken in sister-code and translated by eyes and faces 
and my shameless questions.

And we stopped by Edge and H stumbled on "Pursuit of Happyness," 
a perfect way to end the evening,
 - after they ate (I am so happy when they eat) 
food that actually has vitamins and proteins in it, 
not just flour and sugar, 
and we laughed and ached and rejoiced with Chris Gardner and his son
until the movie was over.

and I have forever burned into my mind their two faces, side-by-side and blue-lit, smiling with genuine happiness, H peering over S's shoulder at the screen on her phone, hiding and seeking out their sister love again...

And the only part of the evening that was hard to thank the Father for was the drive home
      and the drop-off
             and the splinter of fear
                       that the next time I see them
their lives might be upside-down again.

but I am now listening... and entrusting...
and I thank God for wise women,
and for Himself, the Forger of paths and the mover of mountains
      who sees the end of all things, yet is patient with my blindness and irrational insecurities...

And I am going to bed full,
and with peace,
and so very

Monday, December 12, 2011

(Not) A Superhero

My nephew made me watch this...
(warning: funny but irreverent content)

Ok, so I really don't think I'm going to end up in the belly of a big fish.
But Jonah is one character in the Bible I identify with on so many different levels...

His ability to disagree with God...and act on it.
He ran when God said “go,” in the absolute opposite direction.
Sometimes I listen and then choose to do precisely what God says not to.

His inertia NOT to get involved.
He was asleep in the bottom of the boat when it was going down.
I too sometimes ignore problems and hope they go away.

His sense of justice over mercy (working on this)...
He preferred to see the destruction of the wicked over their repentence...
I want to decide who is worthy of hearing the gospel -
and who isn't, based on my own personal standards.

His reluctant obedience.
It's not until he's faced with personal destruction that Jonah finally caves...
Often I have to have my hand burnt before I'll take it out of the fire.

His self-pity...
When he saw God's goodness to others and grace on the “undeserving,”
he just felt sorry for himself...
And I confess that my litany runs on too:
Why them and not me?
This is not what I wanted in serving you
This was not the path I would have chosen
And I gripe, and complain
And feel like I'm so abused
And misunderstood
And I feel sorry for myself.
(It's quite ok to laugh now – the ridiculousness of it makes me chuckle too)

His ability to look for comfort in the wrong places...
He was enraged that the vine that God provided died,
you know... the one he didn't plant or make grow,
but that was providing him with shade,
instead of rejoicing in the glory of the love and mercy of God
on an entire nation,
not understanding that God loves people ridiculously more than anything else
that He does NOT delight in the destruction of even the wicked
that in His heart is redemption at any cost...  even to Himself,
the foolishness of a crucified king.

And when I see this vine that I call “home,”
this shelter for heart and body being taken away from me
I mourn and rage,
even knowing beneath it all that this is my Lover's heart
that because of His great love for ALL – not just for me –
that my temporary discomfort is a small price
to Him... and maybe even to me...
because my Shepherd did not consider himself above me,
did not refuse to leave His shade of Heaven
did not refuse us His time
His love
His tears
His life.

And so in this season, I remember 
and worship Jesus,
Emmanuel. God with us - God who came.
A very unorthodox and radical
image of the Father who loves
all of us, the wonderfully undeserving.
...because we don't/can't earn God's love.

and marvel
that He would choose someone as
pathetic and unreliable as Jonah
...and as me,
to share His message.

And He loves me still... this is what gives me the strength to stand. 

"And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful......see that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord."
 - Paul to the Colossians

I thank God for Jonah.

But he answered them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” 
Matt 12:39-40

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Cheer

I heard my brother was sick yesterday so I called him today...
And I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.

We were talking about Christmas
And trees. And decorations.
His girlfriend and her mother were decorating the house for Christmas.
And I had to confess...

I hate Christmas this year.

Maybe it is because of this.
       Or this.
       Or this.

I feel like a Scrooge. And it's the first time in my life that I've ever felt like this.
         And I'm ok with that.

My brother said that he felt the same way.

         “It's not Christmas, it's the people” he said.

And I mentioned the now infamous pepper-spray incident.

        “Yeah. Merry Effin' Christmas, everybody!!!!” he said... in his cheerful, Happy Gilmore voice.

That's when I started to laugh.
And I couldn't stop.

I'm not sure why mayhem on Christmas should be funny, but

And we got on the topic of things that really are funny on Christmas.

Like this.
And this.

And laughed some more.

Can you be pissed and laugh at the same time?

Oh, Lord.

I know Christmas wasn't actually Jesus' birthday.

But. Regardless of what it was originally tied to, when did it become the

“It's-ok-to-obliterate-your-neighbor-as-long-as-you-get-what-you-want” Holiday?

Don't give me that, “It's-all-about-the-children” crap. It's never ok to teach children that getting what you want is the highest end no matter the cost... and that's what I sense out there this year.

I know there's still good in the world. Still kindness. 
    Like people who do this, so that they can do this... or this


I don't want the “Christmas spirit.”
I don't want a “Make a Difference Day.”
I definitely don't want Sunday Christianity.

I DO achingly long for people to see that
Peace and
                   Joy and
                           Life and

can't be bought.

Yet they are worth everything. And worth living every day.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” -Jesus

Lord, have mercy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


It has struck me lately (again) that for all the very good gifts that God gives, the enemy comes up with a easy but broken imitation. One thing I have been privileged to experience for short periods of my life is the beauty of authentic community. Knowing that you are seen with all your strengths and flaws, and are yet still loved - and being able to see others with all their strengths and flaws and still love them is an incredibly freeing place to be. And I confess that here (and often enough there) in my longing for that community, I find myself surfing facebook, blogs - any site might work to get that feeling of connection. But it is a fake - there are no real conversations happening, no real communi-cation. No exchange, no reality, no seeing, and no really loving. You can only love and be loved in gritty relationship.

I John 1:9 states "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." Light, sincerity, fellowship, forgiveness.  The enemy's imitation is to convince us of the need to project an image of who we want to be seen as - hip, funny, sexy, caring, tough, conservative, liberal, religious, cool, etc. etc.... and try to hold that up for all to see and believe. The problem then is that love can only hit the mask, not the heart... so we are left empty and insecure. So I thought about other imitations and here they are. Forgive my Dr. Seuss-ishness.

Come and trade my friends...

co-dependency for commitment

      truth in love that graces and believes
      not fear that enables and deceives

social networking for community

      bared souls and protected lives
      not projected images and vibes

busyness for satisfying work

      the important pursued, hard beauty wrought
      not the hamster wheel of petty battles fought

cheap thrills for real joy

      that comes with giving of your self
      not grasping at pleasure and pelf

spirits for The Spirit

      Life and freedom deep within
      not numbing the pain
             a fleeting win.

lust for true love
      that doesn't walk away. Sharing
      not taking, and willing to stay
      when it hurts, is mundane or at odds,
      when vision is blurred and uncovers flaws.
      That says “you,” not “me,” yet
      calls for respect, the hard, not the easy
      “I'm outta here” check.*

Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.

Isaiah 55:1-2

*Please hear no judgement here. Some of my best friends are divorced for very good reasons. But I venture that what the world calls and proposes as "love" is really selfishness in disguise, a "you for me" mentality and not the "you and I, and I for you" that I see in the Word.

Monday, November 28, 2011

One month away.

I'm not sure how I feel about being torn in two...
...and a gentle reminder comes... isn't this what I was praying for?

A release from the numbness that has been plaguing me for almost 2 years now?
A mother's heart?

I let a foot here send down a few tender shoots, a few aching roots... is this what it means to long for That Land?

Do I love Peru and the people there?


Am I going to miss Maine and the people here?

Like sneakers miss laces. Or an envelope misses a letter. Or a cactus misses the desert.

In the ache of pulling away and (trying to) let go, I WILL give thanks.

Thank you God for a family that I love enough to miss.

Thank you for Mom and Gram who continue to meet to pray every night,

For old friendships, strengthened and renewed.

For new friendships, tender but cherished.

For the time spent with H and S and teaching me what it means to love fiercely again.
(oh, Lord ... but Your will be done)

For re-opening my eyes to time savored, not just spent.

For the beauty of your creation here, unique with jagged coast, frigid waters, spruce and fir woods, wool-gray clouds, smoky air and salt breezes.

For time, much too short, with the coolest niece and nephews in this wide world.

For early mornings watching the world awaken and late nights, feeling Your care as it sleeps.

For Gulf Hagas, Great Pond Mountain, Schoodic, Fowler Pond, Thurston Pond and the woods behind the house.

For ninja stars, ninja games, and soccer and sledding in the dark.

For night frolicks by the Penobscot, rolling in leaves, drinking peppermint hot chocolate and watching the tide come in.

For Sunday afternoon walks, the Monkeys and apple baseball.

For the Beatles, magical music, incredible (and young) guitarists, the best acapella 11 year old I've ever heard and my friend the rockstar, Kendall.

For healing Rony.

For the trip to VT ... and beyond.

For reminding me that it's not what I do, it's who I am.

For loving me even though I get restless, confused, self-righteous, and deaf to you.

For giving me the grace to be imperfect... and not quitting on me.

For loneliness, fears, doubt, confusion and even mistakes - for nothing drives me better to my knees and to You.

For reminding me that because of Jesus, it's all worth it.

And for Peru... Oh Lord.

Thank you for humbling experiences – and I pray for relationships restored.

For Juan who faithfully took care of my house.

For Isaac who faithfully took care of my bike. Maybe a bit too faithfully.

For Chris.

For the work you have been doing while I've been gone.

For the chance to see Lains and Omar, Patrick and Juan, Junior and Jessica, Miguel and Aymar, Kender and Daniel, Rita and Ruth... and 200 other niños again.

For the chance to see Dannig and Sandra, Darinka and Marlith, Carlos and Peter again.

For the community that I know you will provide.

For the purpose I know you will give.

For the Paluskys and their vision for the Hurarina tribe... and more.

For the knowledge that You are the same God, no matter where I go... and that I am Yours and You are mine.

Friday, November 25, 2011

To a frenetic-ly good cook

Beautiful girl...

Your mind is full of thoughts and frettings of what-ifs and if-onlys a

perpetual cyclone of maybe-I-coulds and why-can't-it-bes that

spin round and round, keeping you awake to wee hours and

even in your silences they continually scream out

your shame and

tell you what you have lost and

what you could've

should have


If you had a thousand hands, perhaps

just then

you could hold everything together.

Or if you had ten thousand words, maybe then

you could say the

right ones.

Sweet girl.


Let the past be for a while...

quiet your mind

about the future

and just breathe.

And better yet...

Turn it All into the hands of

the Greatest Baker.

Who will knead

the bitter

together with

the sweet.

And let it rise

in His time.

To be cooked to the perfection

of His grace.

And He will make something

that will surprise

even the best

and most productive

of cooks.


Your wounds don't show from the outside
Beautiful blue eyes and an angelic face.
Sweet smile and almost always
But you don't fool me.
I see you raw and bleeding
unwittingly stabbed
with the daggers of
“made-to-be-used” and
by hands that were created to
hold you instead.

The lies the Liar pours into your heart scald
like boiling oil,
and you are slowly becoming convinced that
is what you are.

Your problem is
That you still feel.
When so many have shut down and
numbed their pain with
drugs or
sex or
You still try to swim
against the current
of salt water.

Even for that I love you.

And I pray that you will recognize the lies
for what they are.

And I pray that you can see what I see:

a Father who loves you

Who stripped and bare


bleeding on that
rough wood,
to conquer lies, and the liar
and to heal
all the wounds in
your heart.
Because you are



longed for

delighted in

worth it.

Slipping Words

I feel a great gap between

who I want to be


who I am.

Surely the entire world sees
and knows
that this face is not
the true one.

Perhaps that
is why I have no
for you.
Nor do I believe
the ones you have
for me.

And the ones
in me
slip like water through my fingers.
I am not even sure
what my face
is like
though I am pretty
it doesn't look
like it

Friday, November 18, 2011

In the Beginning was the Word

I feel like I've been without words for a long time.
I think they might be coming back.
Maybe they're hiding around the next bend...
I'll just keep walking.
Just in case.

Monday, February 21, 2011

self. justification. and something called humility.

Lately the theme of self has been rising up strong in my heart. Self-righteousness. Self-justification. Last night was the first night at a small cell group that is springing up from a church whose doors have closed due to lack of a pastor, and I went with two other young men here from Nauta. To my shame, my first thought, my first instinct was pride. “Look what I am doing! Now I have something to write home about, now I have something to show to justify my existence here as a missionary. This is what missionaries are supposed to do, right? Bible studies, and cell groups, leading people to Christ and teaching and training others!” These are good things, but God sees our heart – and it is laughable to have such an attitude of self-aggrandizement. Naturally, f there is any growth, any revelation of Christ there to their hearts, it will come from the Holy Spirit, not from Holy Crystal. Why do we have this need, this hunger to look good to those around us, even spiritually, to justify ourselves in the eyes of men and not first to be pleasing in the eyes of God? I'll tell you. It's pride, which is straight from the sulfurous pit. Do we feel we are lacking? We look for a way to “prove” ourselves worthy. This is not the way of the cross.

Jesus continually said, “not my will, but Yours be done, Father.” Continually. Daily. Hourly. By the minute. This is humility and this is the opposite of the Satanic pride and selfishness that would devour us.

“We must seek a humility that rests in nothing less than the end and death of self; that gives up all the honor of men, as Jesus did, to seek the honor tha comes from God alone; that absolutely makes and considers itself nothing so that God may be all, so that the Lord alone may be exalted. Until we seek humility in Christ as our chief joy and welcome it at any price, there is very little hope of a religion that will conquer the world.” (Andrew Murray, Humility)

This means to take advantage of every opportunity to be stripped of our pride, to die to self, every opportunity to serve, especially the least of these, every chance to be humbled, even humiliated. If there is one thing that comes to mind that makes you say, “But I can't do THAT... what would people think? They would think that I am a fanatic, a lunatic, a misguided fool. I will look foolish, will be thought less of...” Praise God for that very opportunity and take advantage with joy of the chance to be made less that Christ might be made more. Does God call us to praise Him in a public place? Praise Him!! Does He call us to lay your hands on a sick person, on a dead person even – Lay hands and pray that the power of God may be seen and that He might be glorified!! What is the only thing we can lose? Pride. And praise God for its loss!!!! Let's believe that He who called is faithful, and let His glory shine. His. If there is something that comes to mind that makes us say, “THAT is too much for me – it is a work that is too hard, too dirty, too demeaning,” Praise God for such a chance to lose our sense of “rights” and “privilege” and to serve the only Living God with all your being. If there is someone who comes to mind that pushes our buttons or rubs us the wrong way, one who insults us, takes advantage of us or pokes fun at us, praise God!!! These are the people that we need to remind us that we too were loved by God even when we were rebellious, cruel and in desperate need of a Savior. How then did God treat us? With grace, love and truth. Are we accused? Let God be our defender. Are we misunderstood? Let God be the one who sees and understands us. Not that we might take pride in our humility, but that the glory of the Son of God might be seen in us and not ourselves. Not myself. Praise Him!