twentybydesign

the life and times of a twenty year old designer

Archive for the ‘Life of the Spirit’ Category

walking in the rain

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As has become my custom this summer, I set out to walk the mile and a half to my afternoon coffee meeting rather than fire up my SUV for the journey. I love the walk, it winds through a beautiful part of my neighborhood, big old trees and creeks and streams, well kept-houses, my very favorite local church, and a stretch of busy road that makes me glad I’m experiencing the road at four miles an hour rather than forty. It only takes half an hour, and provides good time to think, pray, listen, and breathe some fresh air. I’ve fallen in love with my neighborhood in this way – in taking the time to see and smell and feel this particular patch of earth. Sometimes I take this walk on sunny days, and on those days it’s advantageous to know the oases along the way, shade trees for resting and streams for cooling down toasty toes.

 


 

Today, it is raining. Not violently or tempestuously, but steadily and often substantially. Rain makes me want to put on some Sigur Ros, drink tea and read something dense. It would be easy to simplify the journey, save some time and effort, and take the four mile drive. But I’m looking forward to this walk, and I know that in saving time, I’ll also lose an opportunity to see another side of the neighborhood. So I pull on a hooded sweatshirt, shake out my umbrella, strap on my Chacos, and set out on the journey.

Along the way my pace slows considerably. On hot summer days I take the walk pretty quickly, so as to avoid sunburns and reach the next bit of shade as soon as possible. I don’t like being very hot for very long. Today, the rain allows me the time to notice how, from the right angle, the old trees form an arch across the road that obscures the buildings and makes the neighborhood look like a forest. The rain challenges me to turn off my music and listen to its own particular rhythms. And my ritual stop at the stream to cool my feet becomes an opportunity to wash off all the debris my soggy sandals have collected. It is good to be in this place. As cars rush past, windows rolled up, climates controlled, pace ruled by the rhythm of traffic, I can’t help but wonder if they know how much they’re missing. 

 


 

It’s essential, somehow, to learn to love the road when it’s raining. Not to see the rain as an inhibition or inconvenience, something we have to protect ourselves from and rush through as quickly as possible, but to see the rain-soaked world as a space that is just as valid for an honest journey as the blue-skied paradise we Coloradans get to experience 300+ days a year. We’ve worked as hard as possible to control our environments, to make sure our experience of the world is exactly the same regardless of climate or temperature. But if we spend the rainy season wishing for the sunshine, we’ll miss an opportunity to move through this time at the pace of our own two feet, to see the depth and beauty and humble sadness of a world where the rain is still fresh. I loved the rain today, precisely because it was, without hope or agenda – immersive, arresting, and revealing another shade of glory on the trail I thought I knew so well.

I’m sad to be leaving this place, because I’ve seen so much sunshine here. Rays of light and goodness and glory, moments that bestow hope and purpose and joy. But I’ve also seen seasons of rain, and loved them in equal measure. Somehow they show the road with honesty, washing away the illusion of invincibility and omnipotence. And they is part of what I’ve loved about the last five years, and so I’m sad to be leaving that too. 

 


 

Often, learning to see Him in the rain is the only way to know He’s here. His love for us is not confined to the sunshine, to the clarity, to the easy paths and bright moments. He is equally present in the rain, the inconvenience, the confusion, the obscurity, the washing away and the vital refreshing. He dances in the fresh and bewildering downpour, even as He delights in the new shoots of life this deluge calls forth. This rain is not simply valuable for what it produces, but for the exact beauty of what it is. 

O my heart, learn to love this place, even if it feels like a season of interminable, bittersweet rain, because He is Here. And because, in the midst of all of it, He Is. 

 

 

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Written by Taylor Webster

July 30, 2014 at 11:34 pm

(seven weeks) a lenten journal

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(one)
monday.

all of the Things had been done

and instead of finding peace my heart exploded in a stream of physical fear late night phone calls and in the midst of phrases unuttered and hearts drawn into compassion and great aching voids of understanding unwilling to admit that the wrenching came from anything at all being wrong

everything weight, heavy, heavy, heavy

 

another way presented itself
it was treadwatertreadwatertread.
or accept the hand pulling me into the boat

and the thought that perhaps the best way to handle
drowning
wasn’t to keep treading to become a stronger swimmer to fight for every gulp of oxygen
but to realize that maybe
the drowning could be ascribed
to the size of the ocean
and indicated no fault in the strength of the swimmer

 

on wednesday we all returned to dust
each and every and all

in my weakness, imbalance, humanity

i accepted the invitation into the boat
a clean break
clear start
opening, honesty, redemptive connection

 

it’s impossible to stop drowning if you insist on staying in the water
you’re only delaying the inevitable

a floodgate, an outpouring, made space for grace i couldn’t understand
when the man who knows and keeps the law is wracked with internal shame and guilt and the prostitute shatters her life savings at the feet of an itinerant rabbi
who has found the heart of the matter?

 

sometimes, when you get the queen of hearts, you’ll still have a chance to shoot the moon

 

“i have seen the burden God has laid in men
he has set eternity in the hearts of men
he has made everything beautiful in its time
yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
-ecclesiastes

 

(two)

a gracious, still space.

a room marked “peace”
a back porch and a basement and a bookshelf
generous company, great faithfulness, rescue and shelter
hope unspoken vows and freedom to move freely
binding beginnings and endings into covenant purposes of friendship

 

space to pause, freedom to live the questions as we are brought through

and yet the snare tugs and much is unprocessed and grace is grating and the space is aching

“i remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall
i well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 

yet this i call to mind and therefore i have hope:

because  of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail. they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
i say to myself “the Lord is my portion, therefore i will wait for Him”
-jeremiah’s lamentations

 

(three)

honesty long overdue patches cracks in aging friendships

but stories also confirm
the ship is still sinking

perfect hands dig through the mud
uncovering the precise clay needed
the pot is made to be filled, to be emptied, to be filled again
to be rich with purpose
and always rich with hope

 

boundaries become opportunities
which stop patterns from becoming identities

 

ten days is the longest time, and i am a fraudulent mess

refuge in the smallest cabin on the humblest lake
and it is snowing
and i find it easier to wrestle with You than with myself
as i seek to catch an echo

 

none of us can claim full representation
we are tiles in your mosaic
who need each other as others
 blessed, sacred, rooted in holy solitude

my wandering heart is bound in this goodness and grace
caught up in swirling sacred, i call attention to the mystery and find a tangible freedom

 

“God talks quite audibly before one is created,
then walks in silence beside you into the night.
but the words, before one is given one’s start,
these cloudy words are:
guided by your senses you are sent;
walk to the rim of your desire;
be my attire.

 grow like fire behind the scenes
so your shadows stretch and hover,
becoming my cover.

allow it all to happen:beauty and terror.
just press on! no feeling is an error. but don’t get severed from me.

close is this land,
which one calls life.

you will recognize it by its strife.

take my hand”
– r.m. rilke, the book of the monkish life

 

(four)

we are a covenant people

and as i stand before you this is less about me
and more about us

the pulpit was a life raft
a holy and broken hallelujah
a gift that never had to become an identity

a simple, homemade dinner and a pull out couch
extensions of grace
invitations into a family

 

the war is great
but the field is leveled and the ground is solid
we are not given weapons to show our own finesse
instead it is armor

and we trust the strength of the maker who is present with us
and knows where we will go from here

louisville slugger vision retrospective
return to banjosity
interwoven threads of grace
honest feedback
a scrappy band that refuses to give up
mustard seeds cracking pavement

 

as the tender places heal on this scarred back
even the blanket of grace cuts like burlap

i see it as abrasive, ill-fitting-undeserved
and want to prove i’ll never be able to wear it

the healing is slow, almost imperceptible
nowhere near fast enough for what i need
i feel the old coat will never be shed

faith grows from knowing exactly how much i can’t handle
and trusting that there is one who can

against all hope, abram, in hope, believed”
– the apostle paul, to the romans

 

(five)

to go out in joy

to be sent so full and so assured
to build well and laugh together
to see grace, peace and space

ice cream on the kitchen floor

 

all is quieter, less dramatic than what I’d expect
it is also deeper, truer, and far more beautiful
a sweet and subtle work that tints every moment

in the work of months and years and half a decade
this heart is still being redeemed

 

we test our limits, argue for out limitations
and find grace is the essential fabric of the coat we’re seeking to jettison

suddenly there are stories to tell and the opportunity to stand firm
to fight it by name
to pray out loud
in quivering moments of boldness

 

aching for rest and permanence, transcendence and glory

 

someday every point of rest won’t feel like a waystation
for the time will come to settle and breathe
the dwellings will no longer be temporary

the goal will no longer be onward and upward, but downward and deeper

sacredness is not found on top of a mountain
but in the sweat on our backs and the dirt under our fingernails
we will see glory in the ash from which we are emerging

it will be a good and gentle place to begin a garden together
beauty and nourishment rise form the compost heap

 

as far as the trains could have taken us
we will never see anything more wonderfully bathed in grace and in glory  

 

for i can not be defined by what i will never be

for the foolishness of god is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of god is stronger than man’s strength”
– the apostle paul, to the corinthians

 

(six)

a return to a home all but forgotten

rivers and roads, hills and hollers
mountain air on the front porch
notebooks and guitars and typewriters

 

and it smells like it’s supposed to

 

the bittersweet tears trapped behind the eyes of monday are impossible to find on tuesday

 

from a great height, the clouds look so very substantial
from the ground they block the sun and act outside of our control

but they’ll never be solid
for the sun persists on shining
the world never remains bathed in darkness
the clouds never hold together

it’s fruitless to focus on the strength of the cloud
what it hides from us, or what it’s essential shape and substance is

because when they dissipate, we’ll realize
our lives have been marked as children of light all along
so we study the strength and substance and character of the sun

 

after three years my heart still knows how to breathe here

you are contrast and consolation
beauty and rage and strength
depth and truth and steadfastness

 

it’s a particular grace, to be remembered
amongst a group of people who make a living out of tossing starfish back in the ocean, one at a time

what would seem a daunting choice  has been taken out of my hands

humbled
called to abandon illusory successes
remove the chip form my shoulder
lay down the mantle
stop defending myself
and come and die

 

here at the last i find boasting only in impeccable and present grace
joining in a family for which faith is a lifeline, not a hobby

the miracle in others helps me find it in myself
in my pride, fear, insecurity, mess and humanity
the invitation stands to be exactly myself

to live the story that is being granted to me
to be surprised by parallels, and delight in intersections

vibrant stories
creativity in simplicity

perhaps i wont always have to do the hardest thing i can think of
you are preparing the place for me, and me for the place
it is a beautiful symmetry of liturgy and history
hope and healing and old-time-religion

 

somehow there is still a burr in my heart
a dominant and particular proclivity threatening to jam up
the process of knowing others and becoming known

 

and yet i recall that a month ago i was basking in provision faster and wider and deeper than i could ask or imagine

 

he has walled up my way so that i cannot pass, and he has set darkness upon my paths.
he has stripped from me my glory, and taken the crown from my head.
he breaks me down on every side and i am gone, and my hope he has pulled up like a tree.

i know that my redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
and after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh i shall see god,
i myself will see him with my own eyes – i, and not another.
how my heart yearns within me!
– job

 

(seven)

this week begs for silence.
space.
reverence.

a renewed awareness that nothing in myself will ever quite
fulfill the need for something in which to believe

a twisted ankle humbles
good conversation exalts
in equal and opposite measure

the inclination is to rebuild walls
to withhold to protect
to root out toxicity
to see passion as a fool’s errand

because i cannot keep working so very hard
to not be who i am

i cannot stand as judge and jury and prosecution and accused

and the necessity for a living sacrifice becomes painfully clear

“thistled ground, tomb of my love, heart torn apart  coming God, soften the soil tend now the scars
‘love’, you said, poured out like wine, broken like bread waken us, enliven our minds, unearth the dead

rend this heart of stone and mend it into flesh and let your love bring me to life 
yield this hardened earth until a garden spills the ground and brings us back to life 

open, your love breaks us open  resurrects a garden, a garden “
the liturgists, garden

 

(day one)

 

 

everything. is. new.

emerging from an evening of doubt and fear and uncertainty
radiant, sure, strong hope

the tension of a heart that longs to go without having to leave
but is inclined to leave before it is time to go

placed beautifully in context

which reminds me of the following:
seriousness is  not a fruit of the spirit –  but joy is
the world will never again be flooded with a deluge, an extinction – but with overwhelming light and grace
that partnership and purpose and pure personal happiness are gifts –  not essential rights
that heart and family and community and hope will always carry human tension – but can also be the seat of remarkable peace
that our struggle is not against the overwhelming circumstance –  but against the lies the accuser brings into the circumstance
and that even as our hearts are bent against god –  death has been defeated and the lies no longer define us

 

like the resurrection day coming so close after good friday
the grace of this season was all precisely unexpected

though it met exact needs perfectly
though i had been promised it was coming
could not see these graces on the horizon until they were within tangible reach

how much more do we miss because our expectations are limited
to what we can see and feel and touch and understand
unable to see that in two days time our greatest joy will be born out of our greatest sorrow

 

the personal identifiers, the sources of strength
carpentry. liturgy. banjosity.
are being haltingly submitted to hopes of
community. spirituality. service.

this is bittersweet victory
which stems from a strength not my own
and stands to calm the waters such that
the stormy point of ending yields
to a graceful beginning

where less is resolved
less is defined
and more and more is held in hope
and shaped by grace

 

“my eyes have seen the glory of the coming Lord
i
t looks like streets restored after the vicious war
my eyes have seen the glory of the coming Lord
i
t looks like God’s own feet walking along these floors.

my God, you move, and everything is new
the world is changed, never the same
the light has come bearing your name
the dawn that’s breaking in the East shines upon the least of these
and soon, everything is new

 

glory, glory, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah”
-tim coons, everything is new/battle hymn

Written by Taylor Webster

April 21, 2014 at 9:02 pm

an inescapable newness

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i’m a multi-sensory sort of person – so i’m going to highly recommend you open this track up and play it while you read. mr. tim coons has a mighty fine take on newness.
http://timcoons.bandcamp.com/track/everything-is-new-battle-hymn-of-the-republic

it’s the end of the second day of 2014. like most folks of my generation, i’m sitting here listening to death cab for cutie and contemplating the year that’s passed and the year to come (and what a magnificent album transatlanticism was and still is – can’t believe it turned ten this year!)  on the internet, this is a late-game new year’s post. i’ve seen a lot of countdown type posts as we closed out 2013, and a lot of posts yesterday – some reflecting back, some looking forward. but the newness of 2014 seems to (rather lamentably) become less fashionable day by day.

in thinking about writing, there’s a lot i could say to you. a reflection on 2013 would no doubt be a gratitude-filled lovefest. the word of the year was staying. and what a powerful, deepening, angsting, growing, loving season of staying it has been. for the first time in years and years, i spent all twelve months working the same job, serving at the same church, and living with the same people. that’ll grow a person.

an anticipatory look at 2014 would no doubt be characterized by my prediction that this will be a year of going. that word instills in me a thrilling mix of excitement and trepidation, a call to begin to step out in faith in some radically practical ways. for the first time years and years, i’m preparing to move outside the state and culture where i was born and raised, take first steps to a radical career shift, and say a mess of heartbreaking goodbyes all at once. i’m betting that’ll grow a person too.

and yet, somehow, both of these posts would speak of newness. the quiet, beautiful, aching day-to-day newness of staying. the exciting, terrifying, surprising newness of going. when we write at this time of year, in our countdowns and memories and lists, aren’t we writing to celebrate what was new and notable about the year that has passed? to remind ourselves that yes, new things happend, yes, they mattered, and yes, those resolutions from jan 1 2013 deepened and ripened into some beautifully unexpected fruits, even if they weren’t carried out perfectly. and of course, when we write for next year, we’re writing as if to say that no matter what age or milestone we’ve hit in the last year, we’re not done expecting newness. even if we’ve finally done the thing, accomplished the goal, have a new degree or car or house or relationship or achieved whatever that dream was that we’ve always wanted. even if all of those things have happened, we’re still somewhat restlessly looking for something new, to know that our story hasn’t stalled out.

our culture is haunted by a post-christmas emptiness. retailers are struggling to keep up business that have been driven since thanksgiving by promising to provide products that resolve relationships, provide for needs we didn’t know we had, and answer our deepest desires. and on december 26, we are often surprised to discover that our hearts are still as empty as the pile of boxes and bows and tissue paper that’s been saved meticulously to perpetuate next year’s reeenactment of the same traditions. 

so, when we halfheartedly tighten our belts and deepen our resolves and dare to dream a little bigger, are we acknowledging the failure of our christmas and new year’s traditions to renew us properly? because in these twelve days of christmas, after an advent season where the pain of longing was acutely felt, i’m beginning to realize that god has been into newness for much longer than we have.

at a point in history where nothing else was going right for the people of god, he got down and dirty and messy and creative and gave us an entirely new way to experience his presence. no longer preserved in the inner sanctum for the most thoroughly purified priests, he sent his own son to be born to one of us, to grow up with us, to serve us and heal us and live daily with us, die our death, and resurrect the only hope of a truly new life.

and if christmas is really the beginning of something new and remarkable, then the emptiness that haunts us has no seat in our hearts. and we are invited into a resolution much more important than the annual standards of a gym commitment that peters out once life gets busy or a resolve to read through the bible in a year that never seems to make it past leviticus. because we who have for an age been singing o come, o come, emmanuel, expecting a warrior king to come to our rescue, have instead been given a baby born in a humble town who never became more than a carpenter and itinerant preacher. and somehow, in that quietly radical newness, he redeemed us all back to himself. how. is. that. for. newness.

the holiness of new year’s eve and a season of resolution is that after seeing christ’s commitment to newness, we are invited to do the same. emmanuel means “god with us”, after all. only fittng that he should invite us to join in. this first spark, the reminder that unto us a child has been born, and that god works in ways that are so new that they are foolishness to the eyes of man, helps us to realize the need for newness even after all of the presents have been given. and in a proper celebration of the new year, we commit to once again join in the redemptive work. we acknowledge that, just maybe, there is more to learn. just maybe, there are relationships that deserve to be begun and sustained and redeemed with honor. just maybe, our brothers and sisters need our prayers more than our self-righteous vitriol. just maybe, god still chooses what is weak in the world to shame the strong. and just maybe, this newness will encompass more than the strength of our resolve – maybe it will seep into every corner of our hearts and through christ in us, everything will truly be made new.

so sometimes, for me, newness will mean going, sometimes it will mean staying. sometimes it will mean the hard work of keeping in touch across distance, sometimes it will mean the harder work of letting go and making space for change. sometimes it will mean joyous redemption, sometimes it will be the quiet stillness of a broken heart. but as my heart swings from the surprising announcement of christmas through new year’s invitation, i’ll admit that although newness sounds like work and terror and surprise and change, it also seems the only way to open up to a god who has never stopped creating. here’s to living in gratitude for the surprise of christmas and in commitment to participate in the continuing redemption of the new year. that’s a reflection i’ll ponder for years, and a resolution i’ll always be working on.  isn’t it just like him to have has given us an inescapable newness that is equal parts gift and invitation?

amen to that, and happy january, y’all. 

 

Written by Taylor Webster

January 2, 2014 at 10:52 pm

journeying through babel: a story of carpentry and redemptive community

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yesterday’s story:
this bookcase had been three days’ work for a team of five. planning, laying out, preparing pieces, squaring each corner, framing the stand, painting and molding. the finished dimensions were over 16 feet tall, 9 feet wide, and 15 inches deep.
at ten minutes after five, we rolled it into the theatre and decided to quickly pivot it from horizontal to vertical so that it’d be ready for the additional work happening this weekend. one final push after a week of working ourselves sick and tired. a weary crew of carpenters gathered around and began to lift.
the scenery began creaking in protestation, but we figured it would settle once it was righted, so we kept pushing.
and magnificently, almost poetically, at the point just before it would tip into place and right itself, the strain became too much. the plywood boxes collapsed into each other like a fragile rectangular card house, and the whole unit flattened itself straight down onto the ground.

everyone walked away uninjured, but you can bet our pride had been put in check. and my mind couldn’t help but wander to the story of the community gathered at Babel.

 

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.  And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.  And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.  Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”  And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.  And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Babel is our story. As I watched the towering scenery crumble, stood in the wreckage of the edifice of our competence, I saw how clearly Babel is our story.  But we were never called to end our stories at Babel, the place where we are confronted with the shame which seeps from seeing clearly our hubris, self-centeredness, and idolatry. We were called to journey through Babel. Babel is a place of “yes, and…” where the “yes” of our failed attempts at eternity meets the “and” of our gaze straight into the source of eternity Himself. Afraid of being dispersed over the face of the earth, the people of at Babel attempted to create their own fortress of power and security. The Lord’s response was to scatter them to the the winds, and remind them that they could not create their own name or hold themselves together. He alone is the provider of rest, strength, peace, and unity, and without Him, we are confused in language and scattered across the globe.

I know this story. Deep in my heart, I have been reenacting this story since childhood. I have built these walls in my life and around my heart. High and wide and deep. Testaments to my strength, accolades to my name, badges which honor collective accomplishments. I have built these walls. For years, every single thing I did with a group of people was only meant to raise my own profile. And I have been so afraid of being dispersed over the face of the earth, forgotten in the margins of history, unable to account for myself or measure up or matter. I know that I cannot find within myself the capacity to create a beauty that is pure and great and true, but something in me aches to be reunited with perfection, and so I replace attentiveness to the great Creator with working extra hours, taking extra projects, accepting additional leadership responsibilities, and caring for more people so that…at the end of the day, I can feel my time has not gone wasted.

When, in fact, attentiveness to the great Creator is the only worthwhile use of time. I don’t mean that every hour of every day should be spend in silent prayer. I do mean that we are called to be attentive to His breath in our lungs, and pour out our praise accordingly. When we rush and bustle and push the margins of our own strength, building towards the impossible goal of “reaching the sky” we are ignoring the power of the only One who can hold us together. Walking with Him through Babel itself  has re-centered my gaze on the only One who deserves my full attention and devotion. I am seeing my desire to recreate Babel in every facet of life, to center my focus on idols, foolish facsimiles meant to  supplant the Creator.

Growing up, Babel was always a bit of a sad story, but rather odd because it didn’t quite seem to impact me directly. What a tragedy, I thought, that these people spent all of this energy building something only to have to abandon it. I learned this week what I had never understood as a child. The tragedy of Babel is not the loss of the citadel. The tragedy of Babel is the loss of community. These people had a gift we can’t comprehend in modern culture (no matter how we strive for it) – complete unity of communication. No cultural barriers, nothing lost in translation, and a completely common vision. Trouble was, they turned their unity in praise of themselves, and their gifts towards creating a place of certitude and permanence on Earth, a promise Adam and Eve lost when they rejected the Creator in Eden. The utopia imagined at Babel was doomed from the start as it was founded on arrogance and lacking in gratitude and respect. In scattering the languages, God erected a barrier to natural understanding between people. He saw our desire to unite with each other in ways that denied our need for Him, and made certain we would no longer be able to confuse perfect unity with one another with the God our hearts were designed to seek and to serve.

But, the beauty of life after Jesus in the second chapter of Acts is the restoration of community. People from every walk of life had been brought to new life in Christ, and “all who believed were together and had everything in common….and day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.” The Spirit descended, and speaking in tongues was not a mark of hyper-charismatic spirituality, but a genuine blessing which allowed the disciples to communicate across cultures, creating new families where the generations of divergent cultures had only bred cynicism and distrust, and banishing established dynamics of power and fear. Among themselves, these first disciples saw unity which could only come from a shared understanding of what it meant to once again live at peace with one another.

And He himself is our peace. This incredible unity which once allowed all of humanity to come together on a project through which “nothing they propose to do will now be impossible for them” is once again available. In ourselves, our speech is too confused. There are too many of us, speaking too many different languages. But in Christ, we are not only reconciled to the God we tried to depose in Eden, whose sovereignty we challenged at Babel, and to whose authority we have never submitted quietly. We are reconciled to our brothers and sisters who were standing right beside us as we did so. We who goaded each other on, stacking challenge on challenge, convincing ourselves we could live free of consequence, that we could create our own eternity and immortality. Our actions against God are doubly painful for their repercussions in our communities. When we seek healing in our own hearts, the inevitable consequence is the healing of our communities. And as we learn to center our community life around something outside of ourselves and our own abilities to create perfection, achieve greatness, and support each other completely, our hearts begin to come home. 

I am walking away from the tower I have been building, the places where others keep encouraging me to stack brick on top of brick on top of futile brick in an attempt to reach the sky. I wonder what would happen if we became less intent on reaching the heavens and spent more time marveling at them. If we yielded our desire to control and achieve and perform and stood awestruck at the mere mention of the name that has been whispered directly into our hearts. Hands raised in praise are incapable of doing any competent work. You cannot build a permanent structure with your arms outstretched and your palms empty. But it is precisely this posture of worship into which we must reorient ourselves if we are ever to be a part of the only Kingdom worth building. 

Written by Taylor Webster

November 9, 2013 at 10:00 pm

praying in pencil

with 3 comments

october second, two thousand and thirteen

I am writing to You in pencil

Not because I don’t believe You are permanent

But perhaps

because I do not desire these thoughts to be



du großes Heimweh, das wir nicht bezwangen


And I am homesick for you

And for the times when I knew what it meant to follow You

And to invite others to join the journey



We used to ask questions


In laughter, tears, arguments, prayer, and LOVE


We used to ask questions

We sought your kingdom first

Hungering, thirsting



And you were found by us, behind and before


du Wald, aus dem wir nie hinausgegangen


Surrounding us, protecting us, providing for us

Even as our gaze shifted

From Your love

To our ability



Competency. Effectiveness. Structure

Restraint & Reserve & Moderation



Watchwords birthed in fear

that You are not what You said

what You have been

what we have known



But that instead You have called your minsters

to be lonely, to be apart

to follow rules & fulfill expectations

to doubt our sanity in seeing clearly



And that you have called your people

to safety and comfort and sameness

and that we don’t have to take You seriously

Because after all what is a minister for

and that we cannot hope for true community

Because haven’t we been hurt

And that we must. be. polite.



If we never see the oceans rage

How can we have faith in the One who walks on water?



If we never dare to dine with the 5,000

How will we marvel at the leftover bread?



And if we never engage deeply with Your word

How can we claim to act in your name?



We used to pray boldly


And the bigger we prayed, the more intimate

our awareness of Your answers became



And we became less afraid to think and say

and feel and do



We made mistakes

laughing and crying and praying

we made mistakes

portals for grace, channels for mercy

we finally. made. mistakes.



Our hearts let loose their silenced hymns

the joy we’d thought preposterous

the sadness we’d thought shameful



Brimming excess, pure emotion
Radiantly, blessedly incompetent


Our imagination’s thirst for adventure satisfied in bread and wine

Our timid hope for a distant future already coming to pass

Our sins of striving and self sufficiency overwhelmed by constancy of grace

Until



With fear and trembling and unbelief
We began to ask questions

Written by Taylor Webster

October 5, 2013 at 9:28 am

refrigerator art

with 3 comments

I make plans. I make lots and lots of plans. This summer I have come up with a five year (what?) plan for my life. That feels absolutely ridiculous. Especially because, if you had asked me five years ago where I’d be right now, the answer would be summed up in three letters. MFA. Goodness, how the times change. I was talking with some good friends about what a crazy concept it is to think I know where I’ll be in five years, and this is the analogy that came from it.

We work very hard on our plans. We draw them out as best as we are able, anticipating as many of the inconsistencies and irregularities as we can. We draw them out meticulously  and carefully and thoughtfully, genuinely trying to create a complete picture of something it is actually impossible for us to see or understand. And once we are finished drawing out our futures, we hand them off to God and ask for His blessing.

And I think God does something quite interesting with these flimsy pieces of paper we want to place so much confidence in. Some would assume he takes it as a check list and proceeds to honor each of our specific prayer requests. Others would say he laughs at our ignorance, takes the plan straight to the shredder, and proceeds to continue as though our input didn’t matter at all. I think he takes our plans and does something different with them all together. He puts them on the family refrigerator.

You see, I think he is glad to see that we’re genuinely seeking to engage in the planning process of our lives. We work so hard on these drawings, and we are so excited to show them to him, and he says “That’s wonderful! I’m so proud you worked so hard on that. Let’s take that and put it right up here where we can see it.” And then we’ve got some time to stand back and look at it. We see it every morning when we grab milk for our cereal, and we’re reminded that that’s the direction we want to be moving.

And in the time of seeing this plan on the fridge every day, God works with us through it. Sometimes we have drawn a house that is a triangle and four rectangles (roof, windows, door, house) and he shows us a deeper, more complete way to see things. So that when we revisit the drawing we still end up with a house, but all of a sudden it’s a log cabin with a firm foundation and a back porch and the drawing has a much more sophisticated sense of perspective.
Other times, he looks at the drawing and sees how we’ve been paying attention, delights at our growing understanding of perspective and contour and shading, sees how our gifts are developing, and challenges us to continue in a similar vein.
And sometimes, he allows us to see that for all the effort we’ve put into drawing houses, we’d really be much better at drawing people, and he asks us to create an entirely new plan.
But I’ll maintain, the process is important. It’s much more valuable to work through our plans in any of these ways than it is to focus so much on creating perfect art.

Another tricky thing about this drawing ending up on the family refrigerator – it’s not the only thing up there. Now, all of a sudden our carefully bordered drawing is sharing space with grocery lists, report cards, wedding invitations, emergency phone numbers, and, of course, many more drawings.  Sometimes it is frustrating to find that what we have worked so hard on is partially covered up or overshadowed by someone else’s celebration, joy, or clarity of plan.  The beauty comes when we see our art on the cluttered, messy refrigerator not as one of many things vying for attention and supremacy, but as part of a beautiful collage, a family album that reflects the heart and spirit of how much our Father loves us and how blessed we are to be making plans together.

So as hard as I may be working on formulating this plan, I’m ready to hand it off to God, ask him to put it on the refrigerator with the rest of the family mess, and spend the next five years seeing which parts are erased, which are refined, which are overshadowed, and which are brought to glorious fullness.

Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.
Psalm 73

Written by Taylor Webster

August 3, 2013 at 2:03 pm

a week in four parts: roots, celebration, obedience, benediction

with one comment

I promised I’d write about last week. And so, before last week become two weeks ago, here are some ruminations on a week so thoroughly saturated with a restoration that I’d forgotten it’s important to ask for. I think, for the sake of touching on everything a bit, I’d like to chronicle that week in four particular movements. It’s really more like a journal entry than a blog for me, so that I don’t forget anything, but I’ve tried to highlight and refine the lessons I’m learning in hopes that they speak to your heart as well. If I were a good blogger I’d probably make this a series, publish each of the movements separately so that you don’t get overwhelmed and I don’t have to write anything else for the rest of the month, but this is my story, and i am evidently more of a novelist than a blogger, and somehow I think it all needs to be told together. so pull up a chair, brew some tea, and find the story that speaks to you. it was truly an incredible week.

movement I – remember your roots
“it’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only”

I am realizing more and more that there are two parts of my life that have been fundamentally shaping me for longer than I can remember. One of them is my deep-heart love of music. The other is my tumultuous journey to calling the Church my home and God’s people my family. Both have always been connected to a pursuit of beauty, truth, and community.

A lot of times, when I’m trying to encourage someone or to help them understand how I’m feeling, I’ll send them a song. There’s something about the emotional quality of music that transcends words or chord patterns or form or structure. Music is. That’s all there is to it. I’ve been aching for ages to see and hear songs rise up from the church that are written by musicians, not by praise bands with agendas or rockstars seeking performance highs, but the people who see the beauty and life and breath in music that is layered and complex and interesting and honest and through all of those things, deeply joyful. With the rise of sites like noisetrade, bandcamp, and kickstarter, this is finally coming to life. Music is no longer controlled by an industry – artists are able to connect directly with those who have ears to hear and create something together that brings joy to both of their hearts.

This last week, I was able to attend concerts of two artists who have a remarkable gift for calling me back to where I’m from. I’ve always had an uncanny love for live music, and these bands reminded me why that is a good. thing. (And why banjos are completely essential to any live performance.) These first guys, The Oh Hello’s ( their album is pay-what-you-can at http://theohhellos.com/ and you’d be doing yourself a huge disservice to not at least listen!) are intentionally independent and self produced. They do their own CD art, dye their own t-shirts, and are a beautiful model of radical community. Seeing this troupe of 11 young people playing a sold-out Bluebird show in their first-ever tour stop outside of their home state of Texas, the joy and love and passion were evident. They seemed so surprised and humbled that we were all so excited to see them, and their songs called us to worship with reverence and joy, honesty and love, in a chamber-folk style that far surpasses even the charms and talents of the famed Mumford quartet.
The second group, also playing their first shows outside of their home state this summer, are a trio of gents known as Judah and the Lion. We saw them for free at a church in Littleton, but they play with energy that rivals some of the best arena concerts I’ve seen. It’s Americana at it’s best, with banjo, mandolin, and guitar playfully intertwining, singing true, deep, and pure, straight to your soul as your foot can’t help but stomp and your hands can’t help but clap. Musicians like these, who are so willing to have a good chat with the audience after the show, who have the faith to put their music out for free on the internet, and who have the artistic integrity to create exactly as they are called to. These are the ones who give me hope, that someday our national imagination will be recaptured by the artists who understand how to sing to our souls.

Speaking of music. Last week I had the opportunity to worship with the body of Christ in five different communities. The youth camp outside of Colorado Springs, the hipster church in Denver, the student community gathering at the YMCA in Winter Park, the small and focused ministry of a sprawling megachurch in Highlands Ranch, and of course, my home church in Fort Collins. In the past I have attended such varied worship gatherings, but always with a critical eye. Were the people genuine, was the music well done, was the stage design attractive, did the speaker give me something to think about while I drove home? Such questions have their place, of course, but when you attend a family gathering, you shouldn’t be there to criticize your less-fashionable aunt or wonder why the sweet tea was brewed so much stronger than you like it. You should be rejoicing to simply be together again.

And so it was this last week. I saw things in these communities that I’d never seen before, glimpses of beauty and truth and the kingdom bursting forth. And while the differences in background culture, shape, and style were indeed visible, what was more striking were the similarities. Whether we were gathered in a basement, an aging chapel, a mountaintop tent, or a converted gymnasium, so many elements were the same. The call to sing out to our creator, the sense of sacred space even in the most ordinary location, the need for us to teach each other and share our stories, the desire to connect as a family, and all the love that is only possible when it is proclaimed in Jesus’ name. I was raised in churches that met in a good-sized suburban facility, a strip mall/movie theater/ a burgeoning megachurch campus, and a well-established community chapel. And for all the grief it’s given me, for all the heartache and questioning, there has also been more joy in these places than any earthly kingdom should allow. Wherever else I go, the North American church will always be my first home.

movement II – celebrate who you are.
“now i am a heart, with a head on my shoulders, and i’ll say that i’m a different child”

If you had told me one year ago that my heart would grow to be so stretchy, I would have laughed and told you it was time to get back to work. A year ago I was fighting to establish new, grow-up rhythms, and just barely beginning to concede the fact that the only rhythms that matter are the ones which stem from my identity as the beloved child, one of a multitude of beautifully created siblings.

Last week I had the opportunity to reunite both with my newly-formed heart family and with one of my dearest friends. As a bit of background, having a “best friend” has always been inordinately important to me. I have suffered from “Best Friend Envy”. I want to know that I matter to someone else as much as they matter to me, and the label has always seemed to be the surest way to guarantee continued closeness. And what I’ve been learning, most especially in the last year, is that I don’t need to cling to “best friends” any more.

Because I have been invited to join a family. A family who rejoices when someone new is invited in, whether it is a child, a spouse, a long-lost cousin, or a soul sister. Saying goodbye to a family member isn’t so scary, because you know how that no matter how many many miles or months, states or seasons come between you, you’ll always be at home when you’re together again. If you asked me today who my best friend is, I’d have to list probably more than a dozen women. (It’s probably good I won’t have to narrow these fantastic women down into a manageable wedding party anytime soon. But you ladies know who you are – and there’s no question in my heart you’d all be standing up there with me.)

So this heart family. These crazy undergrads who burst into my life unkempt and uninvited. The students I vowed I’d never live with. They have grown my heart exponentially. None of us make sense together – last year it was two sophomores, two juniors, and one recent graduate cohabiting this condo which has its own thoroughly awkward beauty. We represent the math, psychology, biology, hdfs (prepping to run a daycare facility), and theatre design departments of this university, and our personalities are as diverse as our disciplines.

But from these women, I have learned the beauty of seeking God together, cooking extravagant dinners with open invitations, holding hands and giving hugs when words are insufficient, embracing hospitality which calls us to truly love our (next door) neighbors, operating with an emotional range which allows for crying and laughing to occupy the same moment, seeking to love family and friends and those the world rejects with deep passion and a strong commitment, and daily choosing fierce love and friendship which claims family where there should be none. I am humbled and thankful and in no way deserving of how well they love me. The weekend reunion was our last time to all be together (we just shipped one off to Australia for a semester!) and our first instinct was to find a place to pray and simply give thanks. It’s the first time I’ve prayed with a group and heard the words flow so freely and without hesitation from every single person’s heart. What a beautiful, beautiful gift.

And then to visit this dear, dear friend, who has walked closely with me through every twist and turn the last year has thrown my way. What a blessing to have a few hours in the midst of a hurried summer to simply be in the same place. To share stories of triumphs and challenges, to acknowledge frustration and hope, to be able to see clearly that we were both exactly where we most needed to be. To know each other enough to know what was cause for celebration, which circumstances would prove particularly obtuse, and how each other’s hearts would respond and what we needed most to hear. And to rejoice in God’s goodness weaving through all of it. It was a time for city-lovers to rest in the garden, to see the beauty of where we’re from before we rush headlong into where we’re going. (For more on gardens and cities, see Monday’s post at https://twentybydesign.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/garden-to-a-city-living-the-story/)

And so. I may seem to be a bit of a different child. But I am rejoicing at having found my family.

movement III – step. in.
“in the silence, i heard you calling out to me”


Have you ever been asked to do something which seems outrageous, so far outside of your comfort zone and what seems to make sense? In my experience there are two responses to this invitation. The first is to shake our heads, both at the foolishness of the asker in assuming we’d be capable, and to express our own thorough conviction that this is not what we were made to be. The other is to see the joy in the eyes of the asker, to trust that they have considered all of the possible pitfalls and still want you to join in, and to step in. Whether out of hesitant obedience or joyful compliance, step in.

Relatable Scenario A: When random internet browsing across the blog of a songwriter you’ve only recently discovered yields a book recommendation that intrigues you, step in. Don’t look up the book, delight in the first few chapters, but assume the $12 Amazon price tag won’t be worth it because, I don’t know, you were going to use that money for a cheeseburger and a milkshake or something. Get the book, not knowing entirely why, but knowing it’s going to be important. Devour it, letting the words and stories and experiences wash over you like a tidal wave. And then, respond. 

When I ordered Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor, I wasn’t expecting my heart to find a home there. I wasn’t expecting to suddenly realize that this book expresses, clarifies, and confirms so much of what has felt both called and disconnected in my own heart for so many seasons. As I wrote in a letter, attempting to describe this joy and confirmation:

“You know how it is once you admit something that you’ve been unsure of inside of yourself for a long time and all of a sudden it just seems to make sense? That’s what reading Eugene’s book was for me. Verbalized a lot of things I have discredited inside of myself because no one ever gave me words for them before
Outside of God, I can’t explain it, but I do know that whatever happens from here on out, and whatever form it takes, somehow there is nothing I am more deep-heart excited about than serving, loving, and growing with the Church. Nothing sounds more challenging. And nothing sounds more worth it.
I know I am young and I have so much to learn, and life experience has taught me not to get excited or have dreams or hope for things or ask for things. I am excited about this. I am hopeful about this. Learning to verbalize my dream is helping me to find a new joy in reading, praying, and living – and even to be challenged by the vastness of what I don’t know and seeing how growing as a disciple of Christ is going to be a series of small arrivals as He continues to stir up and turn over the rock-riddled soil in my heart.”

The steps of becoming that this book is inspiring in me have been beyond expectation. Writing that letter sparked a conversation which was more honest than any I’ve ever had about these dreams that I have. And in that conversation, my heart was encouraged and affirmed and given space to continue growing. I am beginning to take the first small steps of doing, when up until now thinking and understanding have always seemed more important. And the joy in finally doing what your heart and soul were made to do is so indescribably full. All I can do right now is stand in awe, feeling just as thoroughly unqualified as Jeremiah and David and Moses. Who, through their following, didn’t turn out so bad in the long run.

Relatable Scenario B: When a close friend asks you to pray for a friend of theirs who is facing a tough season, step in. Don’t stop at the “Yeah, of course I’ll pray for them, mmmm, that sounds so hard” response. Recognize that perhaps you are being asked to be part of the answer to that prayer. You have unique gifts and resources, and you are being asked to actually do something about the needs of this person who up to this point has been only a marginal acquaintance.

When I sent the message I knew I had been asked to send, I knew I couldn’t control how it would be received or anticipate what it would mean. But this simple act of obedience has become a wellspring of blessing. I have since had the opportunity to meet with this incredible young woman. I was able see firsthand her passion and vision for the work God is calling her to do, and to be encouraged by her affirmations of what He’s been doing in my own heart, and to feel thoroughly blessed and humbled by the opportunity to partner with her in the next steps of her journey.
I’m learning that the absolute best kind of generosity is the relational kind. As much as I wanted obedience to look like writing a facebook message and sending a gift from the comfort of my own home, the beauty of generosity is the way that it calls us into each other’s circumstances as we begin bearing one another’s burdens and learning to walk the road together. Give as freely as you have received, all the while praising God from whom all blessings flow.

movement IV – benediction
“whatever may pass. whatever lies before me. let me be singing when the evening comes”

there are no clean endings or conclusions to these stories. all that is left is to continue living, to continue sharing our stories, and to remember. there is always a reason to sing.

i will sing, sing, sing to my God, my King
for all else fades away
and i will love, love, love, with this heart You’ve made
for You’ve been good always