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Places Through Portals

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fountain-in-seattle.jpgEach of us has the capacity to lead others to places in the Spirit of God where others have never been. Just as our fingerprints are unique so our experiences of the Spirit-realm bear a likeness of our personal journey with the Godhead.

Reader, listen to the notes and the chords and then slip down in between. I’ll take you to the places where I’ve broken fallow ground. The prunings from previous seasons were planted here. Irrigated with disciplines I’ve cultivated and tears I’ve shed … a vineyard has come of it. First along the edges of our experiences, and then further in. The Glory pierces through us as we plumb the depths of the place where God has made Himself at home.

With the Glory of God covering me as with a garment, I step into the unknown place. I slip through the crease, the weight of Your Presence pulls me into another realm, an atmosphere heavy with Your gaze. Underneath the Everlasting Arms. At once I’m with You, alone with You. You who sees my heart. You that are acquainted with all my ways. There is nothing hidden.

Unwinding, unravelling twisted places. Setting down straight places. Pulling captives from the briars. Pillars of unbelief bend toward the Light. Portals open wider. Glory floods through. Encompassing, engulfing, surrounded by Presence that floods my being with Light. And in Thy Light we see Light. I am laid low. I rest. He’s carved out a place for me. A place that is safe. A deep breath. Rest. Sing to me, Father. Your songs that refresh my soul. I am alive in You. And there is no place that is covered. In all my being I find my safety in You.

Partnering with God for creative miracles. Lining broken places with the Glory of God in such a way that they are recreated. Their design and function are not replaced with something that works, they are completely recreated in accordance with the blueprint of Heaven. Glory is smeared like oil in all the ravaged and torn places. The breath of God finds its way through every crevice.

Hebrews 4:12-13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Red Radio Flyers for Ebenezers

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Words. Strung together. At once leaning hard like tee-pees, and yet tugged along like a red Radio Flyer wagon.

I had one once. It was all steel and it meant business about hauling.

My world of Make-Believe found its boundaries with the natural realm to the extent that a singular, weathered wagon was my prairie schooner. It was my station wagon. It was my mobile home in the wooded Northern country.

Words fly. As if tucked into that red wagon, careening down a hill. Leaning left and then right. And then the axle turns and locks. It’s a beautiful thing to be dumped from your prairie schooner.

In that moment, a Tomboy Pretend Mama, Let’s-play-like-we’re-Family-You-be-the-Dad-I’ll-be-the-Mom-an-let’s-have-more-kids-this-time. You’re alive. As sure as the Sumac smacked your cheek, you are radioflyerfully alive.

All the rocks you’ve collected. Ebenezers, you thought.

The wheat you’ve harvested from Boaz’ field, strewn about the ground like so many sheaves of wild oats sown under the scandalous Summer sun.

And so you begin again. Collecting the baby dolls you’ve trundled and toted, now face down in the dirt. Blink. Blink. Their eyes unable to free themselves of their tears from toppling. And all you ever wanted was one of your own. Blink.

You smish the smashed peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich. Why you keep choosing grape jelly for your sandwich you commence to spend a lifetime wondering.

There are the words to collect. Once tucked tightly in the wagon, now tumbled about. Retrieving each one. Sown in kindness and love. Yet landed on the rocks among the other heart-shaped minutiae, trampled and un-treasured.

With every prairie schooner spillage we become wiser about what we take with us. The long stretch of the journey ahead requires a peanut butter-only sandwich, to be sure. But there might be some Oreos in the back part of the cupboard.

It’s time to go check.

A Culture of Stability

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My parents were of the 50’s era. My mother bobby-soxed her way through high school and college, and returned to Michigan sporting cat-eyed glasses and a textile design degree from a prestigious art college. She worked for Sak’s Fifth Avenue as a genuine switchboard operator! “Connecting…one moment please!”

My father stayed close to home and became a nerdy pharmacist with beautiful, longish curls and a full beard, revealing his loyalties to the hippie subculture. They met at a party and I think they were engaged in six weeks, married inside of six months.

When I look at the photos from the years in which my siblings were born, Mother is still wearing gloves and a hat at a baby shower for my cousin. Her hair was still smooth and styled like Jackie O’s. It seems that in spite of the wild 60’s there was still, and that involved white gloves for a baby shower. It may or may not have involved vintage MG Magnets, Jaguars, Martinis and Marlboros. We simply declined to confirm what was actually in the martini glass. We are rather confident, however, It ain’t apple juice for the baby, Sweetheart.

samantha_1970John F. Kennedy’s assassination occurred before I was born yet it heavily characterized my childhood, even a bellwether for other world-changing events that would occur in the next two decades: the ongoing, never-ending Vietnam War in which we had invested 8.7m troops; the Watergate scandal and burgeoning anti-war sentiments. There were breakthroughs, of course. I remember being a little tot standing in front of the snowy, black-and-white television and touching the screen while Neil Armstrong took a “giant leap for mankind”. My Dad, with a pipe always between his teeth said, “Sammy, you need to remember this. It’s world history.” Those were the kinds of things my Dad would say to a toddler. Smile.

There were so many socio-political issues during that era, stated as if to say that there weren’t issues before or after. And there were, but it was the sharp decline of social mores, the requisite white gloves and a hat, if you will, that had smartly guided women and family life right up until Kennedy’s assassination; that disappeared in the late 60’s. Up until that time, women wore the same style of clothing. Everyone wore their hair the same way. As women entered professions, and began to earn salaries that would one day approach the equivalent of men’s salaries, a certain level of predictability disappeared. I remember when I pieced together the realization that my own mother worked full-time, and other kids’ mothers stayed home and made chocolate chip cookies. That’s what this is all about, really. It’s about chocolate chip cookies.

It’s about our need to create stability for our children, a climate and culture they can lean on while they look out at the wavy world around them. In spite of the tumultuous 70’s and 80’s, my parents managed to provide pillars of identity and a foundation of memories and repeated activities. From this we kids formed our ideas and opinions of who we were and what we were to become. There are lots of things to be ‘against’ these days, even more than in the 70’s but I don’t want to be known for the things I’m against. I want to be known for the things that I’m for. The legacy I leave behind will be one of providing stability and consistency for my children and the people around me, a safe and positive culture in which to become someone great.

And He shall be the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is his treasure. Isa. 33:6

Sing-song a Swaying

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Morning’s melody of winged ones ring-ring my thoughts.

Robin’s rosy belly and Hummingbird’s bizz-buzz business.

Window panes prefer their hop-hop.

Move swiftly, they chide.  Tick-tick to next things.

Sorrow for but a moment. Sing-song a swaying sonnet.

Looking beyond, lasso the Milky Way. Ceaseless Handy-Man.

Daddy’s here. All things new. Glimmer-shimmer in the sunlight.

Sparkle me with your piqued pitter-patter until I can see the way through.

Scarlet cords strewn about. Woven together, weebles wobble a wavy way.

Wound around weathered mountains scaled and left-behind. Breathless.

I see You. The path You’ve set for me. Expansive. Expensive. Ever-opening.

Courage on, I enter the dance. Nobility not known. Never mind.

Reaching into realms. Day’s light drip-dropping into ceaseless sea.

Ceaselessly see me, singing so that You see. You are all to me.

Unanswered Prayer: Held in His Grip

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This train of thought has been brewing with me for a while now. I want to talk with you about unanswered prayer.

Broaching this topic is a bit risky. It’s like saying, “I want to teach you about God.” Hah! And so now you know. I know precious little about answers and the lack of them except what I’ve experienced. But, that being the point, we come into greater understanding by putting little bits together. Sometimes the pieces fit, right? And sometimes we set them aside, and go looking for a piece of blue sky for our puzzle.

But it is a puzzle indeed.

Only you know what life has handed you, and what questions remain unanswered. I’ll never be able to hand you the puzzle piece to fit that gaping hole you are staring at. I know this though, so many times we stare and stare at that gaping hole — that ache or longing for something or someone — and we think we know why it’s empty.

For so many years I thought my prayers had remained unanswered because I had done something wrong. Or that I failed God in some way, or hadn’t had enough faith, or hadn’t prayed right, or sacrificed enough. For real. I have repented, fasted, declared, obeyed, sinned, run the gamut of emotions, and flip-flopped all over the place trying to understand.

I wonder if you’ll hear me when I say this: It’s never, ever been Father God’s intention that you would beat yourself up over this thing.

He’s a super great communicator. If you had done something wrong He would have let you know and once you dealt with that situation, it would be over; i.e., it’s never His intent to punish forever. He’s not mad at you, and holding something over you for what you did in 1985.

He’s a super great communicator. If He wanted you to do something in terms of obeying Him in an area, He would let you know, and that step of obedience would become important to you. I tell you it would. That’s His nature. Scripture says, “… for it is God who works within you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” We are so wired! to be in relationship with Him. Don’t go chasing after legalistic things you think you should be doing in order to find your answers.

He’s a super great communicator but just like any loving relationship worth having, He gently tugs us out of our navel-gazing, and sometimes victimized thinking. At times He gently cajoles us, pulls on our sleeve a bit. Sometimes we’re looking for a direct answer and He just wants to talk. Period. Instead of giving me answers He’ll say to me, “Watch this…” and He’ll show me something or someone that interests Him. Other times He’ll play Hide N’ Seek. We’re after our answers like a heat-seeking missile and He’s dodging behind doors and peeking at us to see if we’ll chase! Why? Because He loves us, and He loves being in relationship with us. Father God gets a great kick out of telling me riddles. Oftentimes I know its the Lord speaking because my next step will be in the form of a riddle. Remember this … no matter how He communicates with you, what He shares with you will always reflect His character and His nature. You’ll see His character and His nature reflected in Scripture. Get to know His ways with you.

My greatest treasure in life is to have had some unanswered questions over the course of perhaps 20 years. There is grace that accompanies any suffering, any lack, and there is an enormous blessing in every affliction. It’s up to you to find it.

Most of the time, with unanswered prayer, you’re not ever going to know why or when or how long or who but you have a wonderful opportunity to know the Holder of the ‘Why’, and He wants to hold you. In the midst of your heartache, He wants to hold you; He wants you to let the “holding it all together” go, even if its for a few minutes. You get so exhausted doing that … holding it all together.

Just let Him carry it for a few minutes. Let Him carry you.


Leaving a Legacy

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I still wonder about who he really was, and why he called me Scout. A repost from 2010.

Herpaintedbunting's Blog

I remember when I was growing up, my Dad would show us stuff. He was intent on teaching us to identify trees and plants, like Morrel mushrooms, Bittersweet and Sumac. Of course he taught us useful stuff too, how to back up a truck with a trailer; how to drive a boat; how to collect sap and make Maple Syrup and, best of all, how to fish. Although my growing up years are mostly wrapped in nostalgia and I have few opportunities to exercise those skills, what I actually learned was this: I am limitless in my ability to learn a skill and do it. Dad taught us to be learners, and to not be afraid to try new things.

One year Dad decided to build a cabin on the back edge of our property. Dad was neither a builder nor an architect but he and my lovely, artist-in-residence Mom put their skills…

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A Grace Trajectory

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Monkey bars. Do you remember them? They sort of beg you to hang upside down and look at the world from a different viewpoint, don’t they? It’s a structure so you’re either on the monkey bars or you’re not. You are either willing to climb and stretch and twirl. Or you’re not. And it’s okay, really. There’s always the teeter totter that will knock your chin into next week, if you like that sort of thing.

But, really. We’re all grown-ups here. And this is still the playground. And you can either see London, France and Stinky’s underpants, or not.


The big decisions come as little ones. Actually. They masquerade as, “So whaddya think?” And your answer to “Whaddya think?” sets the whole trajectory of your life. Or, at the very least, it exposes what is in your heart.

As a Christian I have at my fingertips the concept of Grace. And Christians are wildly prone to apply grace to themselves but be really super stingy when it comes to other people. We just do this. I don’t know where we learned it. And I’m really grossed out by that, and apologize. Yeah.

Grace, we’ll happily recite to you is unmerited favor. Awesome. Let’s throw a few Christianese jargon-y words in there so you can’t be on the team, once again. We’re still in Junior High apparently and picking teams, and if you know the words and how to use them then you’ll be picked to be on the team. Good grief. What a recollection. I hated Junior High and being the last one to be picked. Late bloomer. Whatever. I’ll need counseling after this.

Using other words I’d say that grace is about open-heartedness. It’s about giving the benefit of the doubt without requiring a person to change, without requiring that they give me, or anyone, all the precise details about In the first place.

That’s God’s nature. Actually. If we want to connect with Him in authentic relationship, that’s really how He rolls. Is it because He’s really artistic and does the broad stroke and misses detail? No. It’s because of His Son. And love. You know, love makes us all do really crazy things. And that’s what God is like. It doesn’t really matter where you’ve been or what this is all about. It’s about relationship.

Copeland produced a song called Brightest, and the lyrics are like this:

If you find yourself here on my side of town
I’d pray that you’d come to my door
Talk to me like you don’t know what we ever fought about …

To me, that’s what love looks like. Love just can’t figure out a reason to fight anymore. Like a surfer yields to the next wave, you lean into the equity of what you have together and just drop it. You let it all go, and yield to the covenants that you share with one another, whether its a lifelong commitment between best friends, or it’s a couple, or even siblings. It’s the best picture that I have for the way Father God is with us. Instead of looking at the mess, He just nods quietly and looks over at His Son. He sent His Son for our messes. Christ died the most gruesome death. But there was a purpose, so that Father could gaze at us, eye to eye. So that we could connect with Him. Father and Son. Father and Daughter.

Watch for real Love. Wait for it. Don’t accept the counterfeit. Because real love lets you be you.





Winter’s First Thaw: Our Hearts at Stoney Creek

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Many of the tools in my life’s toolkit are gleaned from my childhood in the rural, Northern countryside where I grew up. The woods were a wonderful playground but they are also rich with metaphors for life, that I draw on continually.

There was a magnificent trout stream that bordered our property. The creek ran dry in the hot summers and would overflow the roads in Springtime. It boasted enormous steel culverts in two different places where the water crossed the roads. The metal tunnels allowed for the free-flow of water when the creek ran high. In many cases the creek would swell to several feet deep, and threaten to wash out the road during flood seasons. The water flows fierce and cold in Michigan. And yet there is a profound beauty, even an explosion of delight when Springtime edges its way North.

It’s difficult to aptly describe how well our family knew the creek and those woods, and the way in which they were our home as much as our house was. The trees were friends. Maple leaves rustling in the Fall. Deep snow crunching beneath our feet. The symphony of starlight that ushered many a midnight walk through woods. These were the background music we learned to love.

After I’d moved to the southeastern states, there was one season in particular when I’d lost my way, emotionally, spiritually. The path was dark, and my emotions were raw. My was heart ransacked. As a girl who had grown up knowing True North instinctively, I’d lost my bearings. In that season the Lord reminded me of being at the creek, of walking through the culvert. Every ridge and root. The rock formations that had shifted from winter’s enormous beds of ice. The trees that leaned over the water. New Adder Tongue and Jack in the Pulpit poking their way up through the frozen earth. The pungent earth yawning it’s solidarity with the trees.

Yet my heart was reminded of the way the sun glinted against the shards of ice. There was a mountain of ice and the blazing sun creating a cacophony of brightness. The silence in my heart thrummed with nature’s symphony once again. I could feel the dormant winter earth longing for Springtime, just as my heart ached to be whole again.

When Springtime comes at the culvert the energy and direction are unspoken and vivid. Before long, the water would rush through and fiercely demand passage out into the fields and the creek bed would press it’s way into the mighty Black. Fierce and full and without reserve. The pain of growth and transformation are memories left with Winter’s crunching snow beneath the icy moon. I would find my traction, and True North would expose itself to my spirit again.

Your Springtime will come again. But for now, take a deep breath. Rest well, my friend. Unravel panic and trauma, and Winter’s yawning ways. As you rest, the warmth of sunshine will melt the shards of ice that have clung to your soul, and you will laugh again. You are worthy. You are loved.

Be at peace.


Wilderness of Soul

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Oceans of complexities.

Complexities cull my soul, yawning for comprehension.
Oceans overwhelm, being only in this place.

Layers lifting off previous places in my heart.

Littered with deposits of harvest.
Heavy, weighty grace. Collected and cured.

Disbelief daring me to breathe again.

Taunting tears and Truth stares.
Tyranny behind me, I stand.

Songs sung in the wilderness of soul.

Wildness wakes. Facades shake.
Where ever I am.

Processing Emotions with Hoover

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So I asked a few friends, who are brainy, what’s it like to feel anyway?

The cerebral types grunted at me  and didn’t have time for my silly little questions. Sigh, they just ignored my survey questions handwritten on little flowery note paper … I even put curly-cues on every one. So I’m left with conjecture. I’m making this all up. If I were actually brainy, and could serve as a subject matter expert, that would have been ideal and I wouldn’t have had to send around a poll at work.

I can’t be a subject matter expert though! When I stand beside truly brilliant people, I get the giggles thinking about all that I do not know … and I hold my breath and hope they don’t ask me any questions about Goethe or, God forbid, that I tell them that Igor Stravinsky was an author. Bury me. Now. I did that. #Lastweek. But! This week I’m so smart, and I’m going to tell you about what it’s like when smart people feel emotions. Yep. You’ll be looking at samples of swamp water next.

Anyway, thinkers who skate toward the most meaning-packed moments often view emotions like giving a large cat a bath in a bathtub. If you’ve never had a large cat or a bathtub, ask your doctor if this is the right analogy for you. However, for those of us who have had said cat and said tub can tell you that prior to bath time there is that sense that all is right with your home, and your world. The only thing is that Hoover needs a bath. That’s do-able, right? Just gonna get him wet. In just a bit, he’ll be clean and fuzzy. Right.

(c) Copyright Samantha J. Penhale
My creature crashed in the sunshine
(c) Copyright Samantha J. Penhale

So you sort of plan how this is going to go, tepid to warmish water. A little bit of yummy cat shampoo. How bad can this be, right? Extra towels. Cat. “I thought I saw a Putty Tat.” You leave the water running and go find Hoover. Who plants his claws in you. Not getting in the tub. Tub. No tub. No.No.No. Bam! All the feet are spread like flying cat, tail going out the fifth way. Feline F-bombs are flying everywhere. You’re soaked, scratched. Clearly you’re not winning this one yet. You shift gears and realize that you’re in this thing until its done now, Pffft.

And so it is with emotions. It just all seems so ‘do-able’ to shed a few tears. To process this or that. Now. Like That makes sense, right? Right here at my desk … right? But then all the feelings plant their claws in you, and you are pinned. You’re stuck until you unravel, un-braid every last “She said, He said” until you’re drained. I don’t know about you but when I feel through a situation, I toss in a few extra issues: world hunger, Canada’s relationship with HRH Queen Elizabeth, the situation in Darfur, extreme weight loss … Okay, that was a lie. I have never cried about extreme weight loss. Last thought is that some emotions can completely baffle us. Love. Love completely baffles me. There’s no instruction manual for that one, can’t help you. It’s different for everyone. But that’s the point. It’s different. And that can be scary, eh? The unknown.

In spite of the wet cat planted on my chest, I have to laugh at myself, and be okay … with myself. If I was good at dealing with emotions I would rollick and roll with them, they would course through me like waves. Whether its confusion, frustration, happiness, sadness, love or anger, I would just let them run their course. But instead, kaboom! It’s time to feel an emotion. And there I am in the tub with Hoover … till it’s done.

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