finding the motherlode

- mining for a vein of truth in the stuff that matters -

dust and ashes

“If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored:
If you remove wickedness far from your tent
and assign your nuggets to the dust,
your gold of Ophir to the rocks in the ravines,
then the Almighty will be your gold,
the choicest silver for you.”

— Job 22:23-25

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Eliphaz’s harsh counsel to Job had become for me a life-giving rebuke. When no particular set of circumstances could be blamed for my peculiar sense of devastation, I was perplexed, undone. Standing in the midst of a thousand tiny shards to which I was sole proprietor was shocking enough, until I realized it was by divine appointment. 

I must’ve looked the part, too, standing at the back of the sanctuary all pensive, full of yearning, tentative, wholly uncomfortable. The pastor’s usual effusive greeting turned inquisitive.

 “How’re you doing?”

 “Decimated,” I replied, eyes burning.

 His demeanor shifted somewhere between sober and hopeful. “That’s worship.”

 He offered no more.

 It was a moment of grace, really, as I caught a glimpse of what he meant.

 I was being crushed. And it pleased God to crush me.

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If I were to define worship in a particular sense, it would be this:

Worship is a returning to the dust from whence we came. It is the act of being brought low before a holy God, humbled by what cannot be done in one’s own strength: to surrender to the crushing process that we might bring forth the fragrance of Christ.

It’s here in this backdrop, this place of dust, where we die to self, yield to Him by the exchange of our will for His, beholding the object of His majesty, His might, His glory in the face of Christ. Where we truly begin to live.

From this vantage point, we see light, discover reality, learn righteousness, and reap in wisdom. We begin to value what matters most, and learn to discern what doesn’t. The world’s pull weakens, our idols fall, and the noise fades. In this place of dust, we come to terms with who we really are: frail, depraved, needy, and desperate. Here is where a healthy self-loathing kicks in, superseded by a healthy self-love, informed by the doctrine of the Imago Dei. This is where we begin to move beyond the blur and find clarity of our eternal purpose, where we learn to live coram Deo as we traipse this earth’s crust before the face of a holy God, walking in the good works He’s prepared in advance for us to do. This is worship, too, part of our reasonable service.

spikenard

 You may ask: But what of the crushing?

Well, what of the flower? Petals are macerated, oil is extracted, the perfume is distilled.

You are an alabaster jar. Have you any nard?

That question is answered in the yielding. Learning to come under the mighty hand of God takes a lifetime, willing to be crushed in the process. Gethsemane exists to test us. If we choose right, the outcome is His; a fragrant offering. He will not refuse it.

Will you be crushed for His sake?

One of the great obstacles to true spiritual worship is that we forget who we are: animated dust, called and beloved by a Supreme God, created for His good pleasure and for His glory. One of our great sins is that we think it’s about us and for us, and we do all the choosing. We profane the Lord by not distinguishing between the holy and the common, rendering our hearts to the lesser god of self.

If you will be tested, then return to the dust; bring your nuggets of gold and your fine silver, too, those things you cling to. Lay low, allow Him to refine you in the fire. Let Him form you out of the dust and ashes into a choice instrument set apart for His praise and glory.

Find Him there.

“…then the Almighty will be your gold, the choicest silver for you.”

— Job 22:25

spikenard

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*A revised piece originally published as “Worship in the Dust” for Out of the Ordinary‘s October 2013 series on the theme of worship.

the name of this rose

Rose 1

I.

Call me Fullness

unfolding

after the last petal got crushed

these wilted hands

poured forth oil

into the night

against birds of prey

close by

overhead

nipping at my toes

as I was pleading

smoke arose:

“…I make whole the broken soul.”

Rose 2

II.

Obscurity,

perplexity’s anthology

a coda in a symphony

the exile’s proclivity

in faith abiding

enclosed

shaped by the will of the Father

cupped by the hands of Another

consumed

apposed

undone

bowed low

Rose 4

III. 

Softness

does not skimp

on strength

made perfect in weakness

where rationale takes a seat

behind honor

“…here’s a towel for your feet…”

— the kind of love that looks after things.

 (Great is the stature of Abel’s portion, it does not measure; I tend to compare)

Patience too is an offering.

How else does a thorny crown

become a headdress

of silken tassels

and linen velvet?

Cain’s temptation gives way

to joy and gladness

at the table of washing

away the mudstains

where I confess

in deference to the rest

these, my welcome guests

— holiness, truth, justice,

and let it be said,

 not my own righteousness —

if such hope be offensive

this high praise scandalous

Apropos is the name of this rose

Apropos is the name of this rose.

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©2014 Elizabeth DeBarros 

this road whereupon we agree


DSC00405John Wolford Road

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 Let me walk with you,

this road will take us places.

“But it’s long, my view is obscured, I cannot see…”

Then we will take turns following.

 (And we also have found this to be true: Agreement is formed in times of need)

 If you have borne the burden in the heat of the day

driven like a madman for mercy’s sake

 gathered up a bowl of ginkgo leaves

 and seen winter’s bruisings pass into spring

— and if I witnessed your faith when you prayed,

“Perhaps healing will come anyway” — 

then you have proven something to me:

Persistence is a hand that reaches up

and guidance too is a term that forms,

burrowing deep in the conscience —

protecting, 

sustaining, 

hoping.

Where, at last,

faith is home 

 and this then is our evidence: 

Assurance.

 

Such were the steps we took

(intentionality can be painstaking, if not starkly beautiful)

knowing we’ll meet again

 but for now

these walks 

at dawn

as we watch the swan circle

and the sun through the willow

as it weeps

after dusk

locked at the hip

moving like Jacob

holding hands

until the road parts in two.

 

DSC00405

Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?

— Amos 3:3

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 ©2014 Elizabeth DeBarros

 

keeping time

Anthony, Corolla 2013

Anthony

_____________…_____________

There you go

stopping to stare

shovel in one hand

birds in the air

dreaming of nut trees   

“— maybe the tomatoes will be even redder this year —”

feeling full,  

knowing crops do better from tending.

___________…___________

And the boys,

used to be everything was a race.

Now, in tandem —

hardy maples, taking shape 

while you listen to the rhythm

of the lapping waves,

keeping time for the rest of us.

Is it me or do you look younger, though twice the age of when we first met?

Maybe it’s your smile

so easy, free

like that day on the altar

when our eyes

espied a glimpse 

of what began as the braiding of a sturdy cord.

Three strands:

love, our vows, and the face of God.

A marvel.

How those tiny bits of metal embedded

and where knots had once been 

instead have become 

a strand of smoothed pearls and colored stones

  nothing left between us 

but gold refined  

  in this silver cup of time. 

 

© 2014 Elizabeth DeBarros

_______________…______________

This poem I wrote for Anthony, my beloved husband of 25 years. I recited it to him before a small crowd of witnesses this past Saturday at an intimate ceremony where we renewed our marriage vows.

(An excerpt from the vows we exchanged)

 It has only become more evident, after these 25 exquisite years, that you are God’s chosen man for me, my Adam, the one I’ve been called to love and live with, to bear fruit for God, that we might glorify Him.

Today, it is my wholehearted desire to affirm the vows I first made to you on April 8, 1989, and to fulfill them all the more from this day on. As I stand here now before you and these witnesses, I am ever mindful of what took place in the Garden, and with a far deeper appreciation and keener understanding of this momentary gift, this mystery, this glorious picture of Christ and the Church, I, by God’s grace, promise to love you, honor you, help you, submit to you, and serve you all the rest my days, so help me God.

I love you, Anthony.

no diamonds of dull worth

diamonds


Gather up your sorrows

put them in a cup,

pour them on the altar

watch the fire lick them up.

♦ 

Give to God what is God’s,

to Caesar, the rest

in Him alone find solace

then peace,  sheep, and cattle 

will be holy blessed.

 

Fret not for tomorrow;

today has enough trouble of its own.

Should God send now more sorrow,

 O, diamond, know this:  

 He only cuts a brilliant stone.

diamonds

______________________________________

©2014 Elizabeth DeBarros

 

these, our hands

Hands
          
     


 

I rush to the water’s edge

without fear of falling in 

eternity has consumed me —

 Is this what love is? 

These, our hands —

still, I didn’t recognize them as ours.

The lines seemed untraceable 

to an earlier time

when the riverbed was full of stones 

and of all that lay ahead.

 …

Joined,

one on top of the other —

weathered 

but not beaten,

sanctified by scars

we could not do without.

Testament to what’s been wrought: 

a generation’s worth of work,

for better or worse.

 …

These, our hands —

once full of prayers

now answered

trace the lines

where no moth consumes

nor rust corrupts 

my treasure, my heart — 

 this is love.

_____________________________

Hands

©2014 Elizabeth DeBarros

This poem was first presented to my husband, Anthony, on April 8, 2014, in honor and celebration of our having lived twenty-five years together as man and wife. A milestone we share with you for your encouragement and for the glory of God.

Someone once said it takes twenty years to get to know someone. I say it takes twenty-five. And that goes for the both of us. A few things known to our minds we have come to better understand only through experience, and what are now cherished in our hearts:  

Marriage is a gift, a vestige left over from paradise. It is a crucible, where the refining  fires of God take place. And it is a cup, meant for overflowing. But grapes don’t appear overnight. The vine must first be tended, and watched. The fruit must mature and is then harvested. Time is involved.  And a winepress. So much mess! But the fermented wine is worth it.

Wine must first be mixed, then stored and aged, and finally, poured out to waft strong, imbibed as lovers and friends. And shared among friends. Over and over.

Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. 

Soli Deo Gloria.

philosophical joe

At some point, everyone develops a philosophy of life. Not so much a religious creed — and not even a parenthetical mission statement posted on a sticky note — I’m referring more to lifestyle, a way of doing things. Some really do like it hot. Sriracha is their new ketchup. Meanwhile, others prefer to cool their tongue, along with a cucumber slice and sprig of mint.  Nobody is wrong here. It’s simply a matter of taste.

Tomato, tom-AH-to.

But you know all that. No matter how it’s pronounced, it’s the same juicy slab of beauty on a BLT. Or BLT with cheese, if you happen to like cheese. Havarti? No, I prefer cheddar, thank you. The horseradish kind. I’ve decided to live a little. And if you add a handful of thinly sliced turkey (rice paper thin), it’s called a BLT&T with C, hold the mayo.

Whaddaya mean, hold the mayo? 

Yes.

If your world is easily shaken by how others do things, maybe it’s because you’re not fully convinced why it is you do what you do. Often, people either fear they’re not “doing it right” or get mad at everybody else for doing it wrong. Absurd that I actually used to think this way, long before I lived a little. 

If by a certain age, say 40 — nah, make it 45; people are taking longer to mature these days — you have not yet stepped over the threshold into that exquisite state of being where you’re comfortable in your own skin, then please receive this missive as a friendly, lighthearted (read: dead serious) permission slip to get on with living. Settle the matter. Develop your taste. Nothing’s worse than living out of someone else’s proverbial suitcase.

hot-tea-cup

 

Taste, or lifestyle, is one of those things that, once you have acquired it, nobody can take from you. It’s yours, internally. It only adds to who you are, never subtracts from, so it won’t be a line item on your tax return. It’s a hidden thing, a nearly imperceptible cache of personal likings — ways of doing things that make sense perhaps only to you but help maintain that other indispensible thing: equilibrium.

I imagine right about now an example would help.

Tea has been a longstanding commodity in our house, though now it’s in flux. For years, Twinings Darjeeling was my go-to every morning. Another cup in the afternoon and one again at night. Out from the purple box came a domestic ritual performed with a certain amount of solemnity. Equilibrium. Remember that word.

But something happened. Earlier this year, I lost my, dare I say, taste for tea. Whether due to a hormonal shift or something less exciting, I couldn’t tell at first. But I needed to blame it on something. A kind of epicurean whodunnit. I say it was the Styrofoam cup — the one they expected me to drink my Darjeeling from when I was in the hospital this past December. It ruined everything. I know it’s odd, but I still buy the purple boxes, tossing a few in the cart to revive my loyalty somehow. Twenty-five years is a long time. But the white foam cup just killed it.

So now it’s Assam. Loose, preferably. Or Irish Breakfast. Same thing, but not really. Ridgways Assam is a brand I’m not too proud to beg for, but it’s hard to get around here. For now, I’m living with Taylor’s of Harrogate, a box of 50 tagless bags I found online. A cut below what I’d actually like, which is a loose organic Assam sold at Wegmans. Malty to the max and fuller-bodied than most. But they’re out — been out for over a month. “Not sure if it’s coming in on the truck this week.”

Um, okee dokee. Thankyouverymuch.

Am I the only one in the world who follows Stew Leonard’s policy?

But all is well, truly. Growing accustomed to that lovely mid-morning cup o’ joe. Peet’s is good, but Caffè Verona never disappoints. French press all the way. Steaming hot. To the brim. In my new favorite mug with the “L” on it.

Want to know what I love most?

Didn’t think so. And nobody else does either.

That’s taste, my friends.

 

 

 

 

onto dry land

Fortitude, Acrylic on linen, 24 x 36, Kathryn Abernathy

“Fortitude”

Acrylic on linen, 24 x 36, Kathryn Abernathy

Exactly when I sank I can’t say • Overnight, this stowaway lay sequestered • nine days silent • sentenced to the bottom of the ocean floor  Squid ink disorients the brain, I could not think • tempest set against me, no way of escape  Gravity led the procession (this imposition became the assignment) with crushing force, until my walls shook • Irony delivered its verdict: “In her absence, cords were cut, men came forth • out of her dilemma a stand was taken: ‘Struck down, but not destroyed.'” 

 What of these aching arms? • Better yet, how heavy is dead weight? • Good questions expose things like roots and debris to the material witness of stale courtroom air • flesh and blood are bound to fail, every breath comes from Him.

Quake, little mountain; roar on, billowing sea. Faith opens doors and my mouth utters this confession:

He is LORD, fear Him.

At last, this, my only offering: in yearning to go home came my remedy: “I have declared peace.”  spit out onto dry land • I’m picking up these bones as fast as I can • learning to walk again coram Deo • informed by this:

To live is Christ, to die is gain.

©2014 Elizabeth DeBarros

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Fortitude, Acrylic on linen, 24 x 36, Kathryn Abernathy

For further meditation

Jonah 22 Corinthians 4:9Philippians 1:21

golgotha

This is a revision of  a piece originally posted on December 22, 2008.  From time to time I like to go back and review what I’ve written to see if my views have changed, or if I’m horrified over what I’ve said.  In this case, it’s neither. 

Golgotha Gold mixed media, Julie Wecker

   “Golgotha Gold,” mixed media, Julie Wecker             

____________________________

I’m reading my Gregorian calendar right. It’s just that Christmas brings out in me the truth police and I catch myself breaking the rules again — forcing me to look past the golden glow of the manger and its million and one replicas, fix my gaze upon the Promise for mankind wrapped up in the destiny of a helpless, crying baby.

The movie reel inside my mind fast forwards past Bethlehem, the Magi, and the star in the eastern sky — zooms in on a grittier place on the timeline. I see something else.

A man in his prime, bent over, pouring sweat, stricken. Beaten. I see blood trickling from his thorn-pricked head, bearing the sins of the world on His back, looking up toward a barren hill where He’d soon be lifted up on a criminal’s tree to breathe His last. And I hear something, too. I hear the blind pride of angry soldiers feasting on the fat of their will as they beat with rods the lacerated back of Hope and Love Himself.  I hear the crush of sin and the groanings of a great multitude of rebellious souls being dragged through the dust that testify to this one thing: He did not just carry mens’ burdens, but carried their exact load.

Golgotha. The place where the Determination of God triumphed and announced to those things in heaven, upon the earth, and to the grave below, “It is finished!”

Golgotha. The place where only a few mourned for Deity become flesh. Where He bore the mockers’venom for His silent willingness to become sin for sin. God of Heaven now heralded as Victim of the most scandalous sort.

The reality of Golgotha is the greatest gift ever given and must be received for there to truly be a Merry Christmas at all. I pray when you look out through your car window onto your neighbor’s lawn, in front of your church building, or on the cover of a Christmas card, you see beyond the manger to the hill of Golgotha. And may you see Him, no longer a helpless baby, but exalted on high, seated at the right hand of the Father, making intercession in all His majestic glory, as He truly is.

___________________________________

 Julie Wecker

breaking form: a recipe

orange zest shortbread biscuits

Zante currants

 Zante currants

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NEVER THOUGHT I’D WRITE A BLOG POST for a cookie recipe. Well, maybe I did, but scrapped it before I could say butter. But I love breaking the rules when the rules are for breaking. Besides, it’s the holidays!

And even if it’s raining outside, life’s not all Sturm und Drang. I’m a baker at heart, a lover of good, a dreamer of what is not, a searcher of things. Everything that goes into the making of a good cookie. Throw perfectionist in there, too. The perfect cookie, where the flavor is full in the mouth and satisfying, there’s no need to reach for another. One will do. The exact complement to a fine pot of tea shared among friends. It is possible. 

When it comes to cookies, I believe I have found the motherlode.

This is an adaptation of a Martha Stewart recipe, and I’m slapping myself silly that after tweaking the recipe long and hard enough, I created my own so as not to resemble hers at all. I cannot be accused of stealing and I will have escaped from going to jail. Not only have I outgrown Martha Stewart, I’ve outwitted her!

_________________♦___________________

FIRST THINGS FIRST: Read through the recipe. It’s good practice all around, and chances are you’ll have to run out and get something. In this case, probably Grand Marnier. Don’t bother getting the big jug, a little 1 fl. oz. sampler bottle from your local ABC store will suffice. Zante currants can hopefully be found in the dried fruit and raisin section of your neighborhood grocery. My box was found in the northerly regions of aisle 7, sitting in the dark all by its lonesome on the bottom shelf. Jackpot! And don’t fret if you do not have unsalted butter. Call me a rebel, but in all my 25 years of serious baking, I have primarily used salted butter, because that’s what was in the fridge. I cannot tell the difference once the butter gets incorporated into the dough. Suit yourself. Well-formed opinions about butter are always welcome. Now, if you haven’t got a zester, a cheese grater will do. And if you haven’t got a cheese grater, God bless you. Just use a potato peeler and run a sharp knife through the bits of pith-free orange peel once or twice. There’s your zest in all its citrus oil-releasing glory. Next, the mileage you will get from an ounce of orange extract is worth the $4.79. Strap on your boots and hunt for it. I cannot believe I’ve lived without it all this time. And sea salt. It’s a household staple and what has become the lovely difference in my kitchen world. La Baleine or Hain are both reliable brands. Now, on Dasher, on Blixen, let’s get on with our cookie making!

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 cup dried Zante currants
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 + 2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure orange extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (I’m partial to King Arthur Flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Method:

STEP 1

Combine Grand Marnier and currants; cover, and let stand at room temperature overnight. Drain. Discard liqueur or save for other use.

STEP 2

Beat butter, sugar, and orange zest with a mixer on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Can also use fingers instead. Add orange extract and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour and salt, beat for 3 additional minutes. Stir in currants by hand or use wooden spoon or heavy-duty spatula.

STEP 3

Form dough into log by rolling in a light dusting of flour on marble pastry board or countertop, about 8-10 inches long, 2 inches in diameter; wrap in parchment, and refrigerate 1 hour (or up to 3 days).

DSC00649

STEP 4

Remove parchment. Slice log into 1/4  inch-thick rounds, and space about 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (This helps to keep shape during baking) prior to baking. Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit.

DSC00657

STEP 5

Once oven is preheated, bake until pale golden, about 20 minutes, depending on individual oven calibration. Let cool. Makes approximately 16 delectably rich cookies that hint of the sophisticated flavor of Grand Marnier.

DSC00703

I might still look for ways to perfect this recipe. Less currants, more firmness, and a thicker, more defined shape (translation: slice log into 1 inch thick rounds), but I digress.  Either way, consider it my virtual Christmas gift to you this 2013, with love.

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Eat well, love well, be well.

 

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