Author: Amy

Born of the Spirit

A couple of months ago, an acquaintance was talking with us about some of the conflicts and changes we have experienced in the last year. He began to pray for us and paused, saying, “You know, there is a type of Christianity that is born of the flesh and one that is born of the spirit. The type that is born of the flesh always wars against the spirit.”

He was talking about a type of Christianity that looks Christian, talks Christian, feels spiritual and meaningful and by all intents and purposes looks exactly like (and sometimes better than) a Christianity born in the spirit. One cannot judge these things from the outside–even within your own community or church, these two types exist.

It is very difficult to personally discern which of the two types is driving, especially within oneself. Most of the time, it’s a mixture of both. But one thing is for sure–they are at war with each other.

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other… (Galatians 5:17)

The Christianity born of the flesh leads to death in the end… it will look good but still manage to kill. It will kill our sexuality, our marriages, our relationships, our imagination. It will survive on stimulants and emotional bondage. It will make us paranoid and join in gossip. It will torture us with guilt and even our religious activities will survive on obligation or self-consciousness. It is jealous of Him, even though we are not aware of that. (This is my interpretation of Galations 5!) Inevitably, the one Christianity will attack the other, most often for very convincing spiritually-minded reasons.

I believe that the world is in a season of huge transition, and nothing is sure. It seems as if the tiniest tremblings going on in the world are like sparks that turn into a bonfire of anxiety. If previous confidences, even in spiritual activities or relationships, feel so unsure, you have a good guess that there is something radically different and truly born in the spirit waiting to replace those so that your relationships become more fully grounded in His way and life.

Perhaps he is hiding in the whisper, as he did with Elijah, and the dramatic ways we thought we knew him are not how he is going to be with us in the next season of our lives. There are times when the shaking is good.

If this idea of the two ways is new to you, I highly recommend two books: There Were Two Trees in the Garden by Rick Joyner and The Three Kings by Gene Edwards. “Two Trees” was one of Rick Joyner’s first books and I think is a book all Christians should read. It’s about a narrative that runs through the Bible: there were two trees, there were two sons (Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael), two types of kings (Saul and David), two types of law (law of the spirit and law of the flesh).

Oh yes, another new design!

We can’t believe it, but this blog and site will be 9 years old this summer–right along with our marriage! (Our first post on the site was an essay about our wedding–must find that soon and repost it.)

After a recent crash-and-burn of the site we decided to haul the whole blog into WordPress and re-design it.

We have always wanted this site to be a place to write, specifically on spiritual topics. It was never very good as a ‘whatcha up to’ blog, although we never pretended it was. So the new design is really all about putting the words in front, nothing else. Of course with a bit of old book and circus thrown in. How could we get rid of that?

So if you’re a friend or just long-time reader, thank you for sticking with us–and we promise we’re gonna post here lots more this year!

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where else to find us

I thought I might mention that Derek and I have started our own individual blogs this year.



We’ve always considered this blog to be our ministry and a place to write about spiritual things. But since we’re both artists and thinkers we both wanted blogs where we could just be our own characters. I blog about just about everything I’m into–technology, cultural critique, fashion, design, film, music, writing. I wanted a place where I could be both a horticulturalist and a fashion critic. Derek’s blog has got some great photos and poetry up. For the last year he’s been building a photography/performance space and making up theatrical characters.

Have fun exploring!

a great resource on Jewish-Christian writings

A few years ago, I was researching the life of Denise Levertov, one of my favorite poets. I read in one of her book introductions about the spiritual influence of her mother, described as a Welsh mystic–but I wanted to know more about her name which seemed Jewish. It turns out her father Paul Levertoff was a Russian Jew who emigrated to England and became an Anglican priest, leading one of the first (if not the first?) Jewish-Christian congregations in England. At the time I was researching, I could find little information on him anywhere except a small scholarly article by a seminary student (guess it’s time for someone to write a Wikipedia article?!).

I saved the links and hoped the scholar would dig up more. Levertoff had apparently written some intriguing-sounding books like Shekinah and Christ and Love and the Messianic Age, but they were out of print and nowhere to be found.

Today must’ve been my lucky day because I was thinking about Paul Levertoff again and my google search turned up a Facebook page completely dedicated to his writings and life. The page has several videos explaining his life story and teachings; tbey’re done in such a way that really translate Hassidic rabbinical stuff to a gentile Christian like me. The page also has information on where to buy those aforementioned intriguing books–just republished this year!

Facebook page on Paul Levertoff

Also, the page is published by Vine of David, a site dedicated to scholarly works by early Messianic writers (i.e., Jewish texts on Jesus) from a variety of periods. It seems like a new project by scholars and translators. But it’s a motherload of stuff that hasn’t been out there before! I love their donation page statement:

Imagine that you are standing in front of a deep well of fresh, cool water. You are parched and thirsty, but “you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” (John 4:11).

Though the water is right in front of you, it might as well be on another continent. If you were thirsting to death, how much would you give for a bucket and rope?

There is a deep well of living water in front of us, but it has been locked away from millions of Jews and Christians. That well of water is the literary heritage of Messianic Judaism: Hebrew Gospel studies, apologetics from Messianic rabbis, Chasidic teachings of Jewish believers, the Messianic Siddur and Machzor, Messianic Jewish history, stories, testimonies, and teachings that connect believers with the past and build a bridge to the future of Messianic Judaism.

But most of this pre-holocaust wisdom and spiritual wealth is written in Hebrew, German, Yiddish, and other eastern European languages and presented in genres of Jewish learning and logic which are largely incomprehensible to most modern readers. The Messianic Jewish heritage has been forgotten in old European libraries and remains completely inaccessible to  English readers. It remains like water at the bottom of a deep well from which no one can drink.

Vine of David was created to draw spiritual water out from those depths. Our goal is to collect these lost writings, transcend the language barrier and make the living water of early Messianic Judaism available to English readers.

women and the stronghold of insecurity

My mother-in-law recently sent me this great article by the teacher Beth Moore. If you don’t know who she is, she wrote a book called Breaking Free which is a very simple Bible study that teaches you how to use the words of truth in the Bible as proclamations. There is one thing Beth Moore knows, and that is scripture–she knows that it is the best weapon of all.

The article was an interview about her new book So Long, Insecurity, which is all about her path to overcoming insecurity and how other women, especially, can overcome it as well. I think this book is very, very timely. (And I love the subtitle: “you’ve always been a bad friend to us”.) Although I’ve always kind of felt that insecurity was a “thing”, nowhere has anyone named insecurity as an enemy, a “thing” that is wielded against us. Once some kind of false reality is named, our discernment of it gets greater, our weapons against it get sharper.

The minute we ate from the tree, insecurity was there to hold our hand.

Adam answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”


And God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The word for naked here is “erom”, which is usually used in places that indicate shame, exposure and bared-ness. It is distinct from “arum”, a word used earlier in Genesis to indicate something naked or not typically clothed. So the nakedness that they were before they ate, and the nakedness they felt after they ate were distinct. It’s interesting in that the word “arum”–which is what Adam and Eve were upon their creation–doesn’t necessarily mean unclothed. It’s quite possible–and I believe–that Adam and Eve were clothed with light, with a type of divine garment. If we were created in his image, and he is clothed with garments of light and majesty, his image of himself probably was, too.

Whatever they were stripped of, whether psychologically or physically, left them feeling bare. “Feeling bare” is another way of defining insecurity. Insecurity is feeling vulnerable, subject to harm, or dangerous sensitivity to one’s surroundings. Their nakedness per se was not the issue–the feeling of being vulnerable to harm was.

Perhaps they were not stripped of their light-laden clothing at all, but they felt they were. And insecurity has been our first line of thought since that point.

I can’t wait to read more of her book because I have thought about this quite a bit and struggled with it my whole life. I’ve overcome a lot of insecurity in the last 10 years, and I’m really with her in how frustrating it is to watch every woman I know struggle with it. (Her website declares: “We’re insecure. You and me and every woman. In fact, chronic insecurity is a cultural epidemic, but almost no one is talking about it. And it ticks me off.”) I just love it when a Baptist teacher gets ticked off. It’s about time.

Her website has a great idea: symbolically saying goodbye to insecurity by sending off a “so long, insecurity post”. It’s kind of mind-blowing–a collective blog where women are naming their insecurity demons. I’ve always known that when something I am struggling with has a name and a face, when it is pin-pointed, it is out in the light. That is half the battle–then I know what I am resisting. And it will flee.

New Resources

I apologize for my relative silence around our blog lately. (Although Derek’s been writing some great poems!) It’s been a busy year, full of maintenance of all of our existing projects and life’s busy-nesses (is that a word? now it is). I’m making no huge promises here, but I have been writing a bit more and am working on a new blog with my own non-Bearable Light writing and art. I’m also at the beginnings of another book. I’ll let y’all know when that gets off the ground.

In the meantime, we were thinking of opening comments on some entries on the blog. We’ve never done that before, but sometimes it’s fun to get feedback. I guess we could experiment and see how it goes.


I had a topic on my heart this week that I felt like exploring here. It has to do with new resources, and this is something that Derek and I have been struggling with and through lately, but somehow I think it is relevant to more than just our own lives. From just speaking with other friends and observing some trends in the church, it seems like many are in a period of transition.


Hospitality as mission, some first thoughts.

We just got back from a 3-week trip visiting many friends in Europe. It was a long-overdue trip, and sometimes I wish each day was more like a month. (I’m a quality-time person.) I’ve got a number of thoughts stemming from our recent travels but there was one I couldn’t wait to come home and write about (because I left my computer at home–and yes, some days it feels like my brain is attached to my computer–I am just one of those kinds of people). It is about hospitality.

Hospitality, in my mind, is one of the most indispensible gifts of any spiritual community, not only to their visiting friends and neighbors, but to total strangers. I know this because when I have been in the home of someone who has a true gift for hospitality, I feel really and truly loved and taken care of. Whether this has been in the home of someone with wealth or someone with next to nothing doesn’t matter–the feeling I have when I leave a house of hospitality is the same.

Now while scripture urges Christian people to practice hospitality, I don’t think everyone has it innately. You can learn it, but I do think from having been with certain people that it is a spiritual gift–and gifts are given not only to encourage each other they are given so that woven together the church becomes a unified expression of love to others. In my friends I experience many aspects of Christ–thus a pretty dynamic community–but not all of them are gifted in the same areas. I have friends who truly have the gift of hospitality. I personally don’t think it’s one of my native gifts, but I know how huge this gift is from having really practiced it the last two or so years.

I also think there are cities and regions and nations with the gift of hospitality–and other nations that could learn some cues from them. But I’ll get into that later. I guess my heart in writing this was to emphasize to anyone who cares how much work goes into hosting others and practicing hospitality. In my “tribe” and the community of Christians I call friends, there are many pilgrims and people in missions or traveling ministries. Some of these are people who are seeking, and looking for a new frontier in their personal spiritual growth, by traveling and going to meet communities in other countries, or visiting festivals or conferences, etc. Some of these are leaders in Christian ministry or Christian charity or missions. The very nature of their job is not only to connect the global body of Christ, but to discover the frontiers that few other people are willing to travel.


a little book on poverty and glory

I am terribly un-promotional. And a terrible ‘networker’ to boot. When it comes to publishing, something I love, the actual “publishing to an audience” part somehow eludes me. I like to write it, print it, or put it on the web but “publishing” implies that one is actually announcing and disseminating, telling others, cultivating an audience. As a writer, I’ve always found myself both in awe of and terrified of an audience. When I had a regular weekly newspaper column, sometimes with my picture included, people would recognize me, and I would sometimes cross the street to avoid them. It’s such a horrible instinct!

All of this to say, over five years ago I wrote a book. It is called A Little Book on Poverty and Glory. I spent a few months writing it, cultivating it, then I spent nearly a year laying it out and designing it. I commissioned an artist friend of mine, Linnea Spransy, to illustrate the cover. And paid a good penny to have a talented designer at Jolly Design in Austin to put it all together. And then I worked with both an independent letterpress in Chicago and an independent hand-sewing bookbinder in Madison, Wisconsin to bring it all together.

The result is a wonderful book, hand touched from start to finish. The cover won a national design award from AIGA, and is now included in the permanent collection of their design archives in the Denver Art Museum and in the Rare Books collection in Butler Library at Columbia University. How’s that for an unannounced book! And this hand-touched quality reflects the message, which is at its core about something quite mystical but missing from so much Christian spirituality: desire.

Because I put so much into the book, I was tempted to hide it for a long time. And I apologize for that. So here it is, an announcement, better late than never. I have about 125 copies left of first edition books. They are numbered and signed and for sale at Bread and Tongue Press. If you can’t wait to buy one, you can do so right here:

Bread and Tongue Press was a small press I decided to start with a vision of producing handmade quality books and zines. There are future projects coming. In the meantime, I am working on a new book. It is bigger in scope than “Poverty” but I’ve recently discovered that I have actually been writing this book all along. My computer is stuffed with essays that have never been published anywhere but are tied together by a strong thematic string. Hopefully this book will not take so long to reach readers. Sometimes artists like me need a push, need an engine–an agent, a manager, a publisher–who stands outside of them and says “lets take this to people now and stop fiddling with it.”

I am thankful for friends like Andrew Jones who just do it and don’t think twice. He wrote a kind blog about my book. I guess I’d say it’s my only promotional blurb!!

Yeehaww, a new website!

We’ve had the same ole design for our bearable light website since 2002. I loved doing that design. All my previous designs were done completely with tables and spacer gifs (and if you’re a graphic designer you know what I mean). A few years ago when I discovered that tables were going to become the backwards way of doing things I immersed myself in relearning stylesheets. (At the time, there were lots of web standards gurus railing against the losers still using tables–but lo, even till a year ago was using tables! I thought it was all a bit funny–people take these things so seriously,)

Derek and I love the circus and especially the old Vaudevillian posters and advertisements. Sprinkled throughout the old site you’d see a hodge-podge of old fonts I dug up, clip art of Russian dancers, Irish jiggers, rabbis, pieces from Polish cyrk posters. I wanted it to look old and wordy, like a proclamation from an itinerant preacher. And Derek had one of those in his family–he ran an ice cream truck and traveled throughout the country giving away pencils that said, “Jesus loves you”. Archie Butts was his name.)


when bitterness sets in

Most of us can’t pinpoint the moment a disappointment becomes bitter. Many of us experience repeated disappointments in the same area, and we still recognize the pain of being disappointed, but often there comes a certain point where we believe the disappointment and it makes a home deep in our hearts. Bitterness is basically unresolved grief that is very buried.

From then on out, there is no person or situation that can prove otherwise. Perhaps from time to time we feel glimpses of hope and forget about our pain, but it won’t be long before we are disappointed again in that area. Not just because life sucks, but because bitterness is an invisible ruler that sits on its own throne of our heart, ruling with its own interpretations. Bitterness is a stronghold. By nature bitterness takes root when we choose to stop hoping past our experiences. For most of us this starts in childhood.