The Fields Preached Me a Sermon

In the predawn dark I see twinkle lights have dressed the trees on the square outside my Starbucks, but the fountain will be on for a few more days.

We’ve had a frost, but half the leaves are still holding on for dear life, like a climber dangling from a rocky cliff precipice, desperately clinging. They share one final gasp of color – a last hurrah.


It’s that in-between time when change is coming and it may seem dark and ominous like that spooky abandoned house, or maybe to you it’s an invitation to comfy hibernation – a soft place by the fire while the wind howls in the dark outside.

Creation is my spiritual pathway. I love seeing more of God and myself through His hand in nature. When I walk I love to ask, “Lord, what do you have to show me about yourself and myself today?”

The other day this line struck me from my morning reading

The fields preached me a sermon. Proverbs 24:33 MSG

Isn’t that great?

One of the things I love about waking early in the morning is that when I walk to Starbucks, the stars are still bright and are such a powerful reminder that I did NOTHING to put them there, or keep them there, or guard them through the nighttime hours. They were there yesterday, and will be there tomorrow. Because God.

I breathe deeply and relax in His sovereignty. I am not the boss of the stars, or the leaves, the fields or the streams. They will keep growing, waking, sleeping, flowing. Because God.


William Bebe was a friend of Teddy Roosevelt’s. He said the two of them would go out on the lawn at night and search the skies for a certain spot of star-like light near the lower left-hand corner of the Great Square of Pegasus.

Roosevelt would say: “That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our sun.” Then Roosevelt would grin and say, “Now I think we are small enough! Let’s go to bed.”

Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:26

When our eyes look up, our anxiety goes down.

What sermon do the fields, or the stars, have to preach us today?

One Key to Racial Reconciliation

This weekend a video went viral of a confrontation between a policeman in our town and a young African American. As hard as it is to watch, John and I have viewed it several times. We’ve prayed, and reflected, and read the many articles and responses.

(Warning – graphic language)

Everyone watches through a certain lens, with particular baggage, expectations, and bias.

People are quick to take sides. To want to say this person was RIGHT and this person was WRONG.

But what if issues like racial tension became less about one-upmanship and more about relationship? 

What if our posture was more one of humility, curiosity, and respect towards those different from us?

As I’ve reflected on this, I really think one of the keys to racial reconciliation is that we ask more questions, and listen longer than is comfortable.

I wonder how this cop and this young black man would answer these questions about the incident:

  • How did you feel during this experience and why?
  • What were you thinking? What motivated you to respond the way you did?
  • What, if anything might you do differently if you were to have a “do over”?

Whoever’s “side” we gravitate towards initially, what if we were to listen carefully to “the other’s” answers and ask more questions?

What if the cop were to invite the young man out for coffee and just listen?

What if the cop were to listen deeply to the young man’s answers with respect and without defensiveness?

What if the young man were to listen deeply to the cop’s perspective?

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. 1 Cor. 13

What Do We Say to our Daughters and Sons?

Back in the 90’s we grappled with how to talk to our kids about Bill Clinton’s immorality.

Yesterday a dad with two daughters asked me and a couple other moms with grown kids how he ought to talk to his 11-year-old about what she is hearing about the Trump tape.


He started a conversation, driving her home one day recently and she said “Oh I know all about that! I hear about it at school”.

Here’s the thing. Our kids may have INFORMATION.

Our daughters and sons may know that WHAT they are hearing is wrong, but they need to know WHY it is inappropriate and HOW to be strong and brave in potential situations they may find themselves in.

If there is one regret I have as a mom it’s that I didn’t coach my kids for awkward situations more.

The good news is that this terrible tape and election in the gutter gives us a chance to reiterate with our daughters (and sons) that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. God has created them inside and out as amazing bundles of uniqueness to be cherished – treated with respect, and honor.

Over and over again as they go out the door we need to remind them that they are precious masterpieces of infinite worth.

And then we need to say…

If someone uses lewd, crude language that offends you…

If someone talks about another person in a way that is degrading…

If someone asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable…

If someone touches you in a way that is unwanted…

You are the boss of you.

You are the boss of your eyes and ears, your mind and body.

You ALWAYS have a choice. God has made you of infinite worth and so you look up, not down.

You may be scared, but you whisper the prayer that never fails: “Help.” Then you stand tall and use your voice. You say, “STOP! THIS IS NOT OK!”

  • But what about the value of tolerance?

This kind of behavior is evil and evil is never to be tolerated.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [or women] to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

  • But what if they laugh at me?

You pity them. You look them straight in the eye and say, “Your laughter does not make me less than.” I am trying to respect you and I expect you to show me respect too.

 “Strong men — men who are truly role models — don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful.” Michelle Obama

  • But what if they call me a prude?

Words matter. They can hurt . But when that happens you wrap yourself in this word: “BELOVED”. And you remember:

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  Luke 6:45

May God work even this together for good in our homes. May we raise brave, kind, strong sons and daughters who respect themselves and others.

“When they go low, we go…”

The Most Important Time to Unplug

Years ago during a long, snowy, Minnesota winter, our girls built a luge run over our deck stairs ten feet high, down through the back yard to the pond below.

As Maggie prepped for her initial run on a plastic sled, she asked John to stand at the edge of the pond and promise to catch her if she was going so fast that she might slide onto the ice which was thin.

John reassured her over and over again. No problem. He would catch her no matter what.

You can guess what’s coming, right?

Maggie zipped down the luge and flew right past her father’s outstretched arms so fast that he actually jumped back instead of catching her and into the slushy pond she went.

Shocked, scared, mad, betrayed, sad, wounded…WET.

We all have ice-crashing moments when there is a tumult of emotion and our first reaction is often to reach for a security blanket that may look like our phone, TV, or computer. 

If you’re like me, maybe you do this because our drive in emotional turmoil is either to escape or to vent.

However, ice-crashing moments are the exact time that it is most important to unplug. I write this because I experienced an ice-crashing moment last week and in the aftermath I learned some things about myself that may be true for you too.

Texting, TV, or social media is dangerous in emotional times because it:

  • Distracts from issues that need to be faced. I don’t think a Netflix marathon with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s is always a bad thing at all, but if we don’t do the hard work of being still with God alone, we will default to emotion and letting unhealthy tapes play over and over in our head.

We need to look hard at the emotion and interrogate it. Ask where it is coming from. Where is the truth? What would the Enemy like me to believe? What is the most life-giving response I can embrace?

  • Demands that we DO something too quickly. The relentless 24/7 access to information, noise, voices tends to amp up our sense of urgency. There is a word in scripture translated “terrified” that is the Greek word, “tarasso” which means “to set in motion what needs to remain still”.

Betrayal + quickly written emails = disaster.

Anger + quickly posted tweet = disaster.

Fear + quickly posted FB warning = disaster.

When we stay plugged in we may be tempted to set something in motion when instead we need to remain still.

  • Distances us from Jesus. How often is my phone the first thing I reach for – to vent to a friend when I have an ice-crashing moment? How often do I put an electronic device between me and Jesus, thinking, I’ll get around to talking to Him at some point, but really I’m obsessed with strategizing my way out of the discomfort? My goal isn’t really getting His perspective, but controlling the situation instead.
  • Discourages us through comparison. Turning to social media after an ice-crashing moment will do one of two things. It will make us proud because we will see others who are much “losier” that we are, or it will make us feel defeated because EVERYONE we look at has it all together. Neither is a great option.


My phone is my security blanket. The best decisions I made last week were the times I distanced myself from it and left it at home. Maybe that’s not true for you. Maybe it’s something else that needs to be unplugged or left alone when you have an ice-crashing moment. What’s your experience been?

When You Need Encouragement For Your Race

Yesterday was the Twin Cities Marathon. This time I was on the sideline cheering for friends and relatives running, scuffling, wheel-chairing, limping, charging to their finish line.


I’ve run (read: scuffled) races myself, and other times like yesterday, I’ve cheered and prayed like crazy, feeling like part of a team with all humankind who are doing the best they can to run a good race.

When daughter Katy ran the Marine Corps Marathon a couple years ago I had the opportunity to be a cheerer.

I anxiously kept scanning the crowds of runners and praying for Katy, like the father of the prodigal son, willing him to come into view from afar off.

And when she came into sight I went crazy: IMG_8597

Is this a tiny bit of what our Heavenly Father feels as He watches us running our race of faith?  Is He picking us out of the crowd, fully aware of the miles when it’s going to be harder to keep putting one foot in front of another?  

Sometimes proudly pointing, like “That’s my boy!  That’s my girl!”, and other times yelling, “You’ve got this because you’ve got Me!!  You’re not alone!”

We are all runners.  We are all cheerers.

We all have hard races to run and we need each other.


As cheerers we get to be the megaphone of God for a world full of weary marathoners.

I knew that miles 19-22 would be the hardest for Katy and so I got to jump on the course and run with her for that stretch.  Just like the year when she ran alongside me, and John cheered, and friends prayed and supported.

Two years ago in D.C. when Katy came up that last tough hill into sight, approaching the Iwo Jima Memorial at the finish line I had no shame.  I went crazy jumping, screaming, crying, waving.

And somehow above the voices of thousands of others, she heard, she turned, and found me.  She smiled and waved and as she passed me and ran to the finish line there was this picture – the bright turquoise runner in the middle of the frame – tiny in the grand scheme of things, but unmistakeable to her earthly parents and her Heavenly Father.


And this is you too. Know that you have a heavenly Father who is crazy about you, cheering you on today.

A Tale of Two Films

I watched two films yesterday.

Both left me speechless.

One left me in tears of despair for how far our country has fallen, and the other left me in tears of awe and inspiration at the triumph of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.

One was a film of one of our presidential candidates.


The other was a film about the courage of two women and a man in the Katwe slum of Kampala, Uganda. 


Both are true stories.

One degrades and objectifies women. The other demonstrates that dignity and dreams can prevail.

One is about keeping the status quo that empowers some and leaves others subjugated. The other is about empowering everyone and bringing about change that lifts and honors even the poorest, smallest, and most invisible among us.

Here’s the thing…We can and we should decry the morals, language, and values modeled by Donald Trump but we can and should do more.

Could I suggest we make a commitment to:

  • Examine our own hearts for hypocrisy and repent.
  • Examine our own lives for language that is crass, crude, demeaning, or just not God-honoring and stop it. Period. 
  • Examine the way we are raising our sons and daughters and ask:
    • Are we raising godly men who will treat women with the honor and respect they deserve?
    • Are we raising godly daughters who are aware of their inherent worth apart from their looks?
    • Are we raising children who will say “No! This is wrong!” and instead aspire to all that is good, pure, honorable, and integrous*
  • Examine the stories we gravitate to that fill our minds. Are we going low or going high?

*Mt. 23:25, Colossians 4:6, Deuteronomy 6:6-8, Philippians 4:8

Fix It God

What’s your go-to when you pray? If you’re like me there are many words asking instructing God to CHANGE something! Heal, move, provide, DO something drastic to FIX things, right?

Lately I’ve been impacted by something John shared with me. He’s been preparing for an upcoming sermon series on the prayers of Paul and the other day he pointed out that Paul never prays for circumstances to be changed. 

He prays for God to be glorified. He prays for formation into the character of Christ. He prays to know more of God’s character in the situations he’s in. But he doesn’t pray “FIX IT.”

This morning in my reading I saw an example of this.

Colossians 4:2-6 Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.

Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them. 

Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech.

Paul doesn’t ask them to pray “Get me outta here!” or “Smite these Roman rascals!” He prays for an open door for the message of the gospel to be clearly proclaimed. Right. Where. He. Is.

So I’ve been thinking about the implications for you and me.

Maybe this morning we pray that God, instead of changing THINGS, would use us for His glory, His purposes, in the midst of the mess.

Lord, right where we are today, may we shine the light of Your love, may our words be gracious, may we model your non-anxious presence…

In our crappy job..

In the hospital…

In the traffic jam…

In our singleness.

In our home with rebellious kids or sticky toddlers…

In our team with the people we don’t like…

In our old age…

So that You will be glorified and others will want to know You.

And if you’re a parent, this is for you 🙂


A Priest, a Levite, and Me at Starbucks

There’s a new guy who’s been coming to my “office” (read: Starbucks). He’s maybe 45 years old, chubby, with white blond hair. He wears track shorts every day rain, shine, or 50 degrees. He sits in the same chair looking for his next victim someone to talk to.


I’ve watched him, desperately latching onto anyone who will catch his eye. If someone acknowledges him, however briefly, it’s all over. He will stick to them like a factory tag you forgot to remove from your jeans, trying to make conversation. My judge-y mcjudgerson self thinks he might as well have “EMOTIONALLY NEEDY” written across his forehead.

And so, I’m careful to avert my eyes so I don’t get sucked into his vortex of chattiness. I don’t need this. I don’t need him interrupting my time with JESUS.

And then Jesus tells me a story about another guy in need by the side of the road, and a priest and a Levite who avert their eyes, crossing to the other side in order not to be  inconvenienced by the messiness of this stranger’s life.

But then, the least likely suspect, (maybe it would  be a white supremacist stopping to help an African American today), draws near and cares for the man’s needs. Jesus commends him as the loving neighbor.

I sigh and think “Ok, ok, Lord. I get your point.”

I go to the counter and ask my baristas, “What do you know about the guy who’s been coming in lately? What’s his story?”

“He says he got kicked out of another coffee shop, but he’s trying to be good and he likes it here. He’s got PTSD.”

I pay for his next day’s drink anonymously, feeling self-righteous. I’ve done my “Good Samaritan” thing, ready to move on. But Jesus isn’t done with me yet.

I want to turn away, but Jesus turns towards.

I sense Him gently asking: “Did the Samaritan throw a CVS gift card across the road from a safe distance and let the needy guy buy his own bandages? Is a free drink the only thing this guy needs to feel loved and seen? Have you never been needy or lonely?”

Jesus can be so persistent and inconvenient can’t He??

So this morning I say a quick prayer and brace myself as I walk into Starbucks. I look needy guy straight in the eye, smile, and say “Good morning! I’ve been seeing you here a lot lately. What’s your name?”

What if You Don’t Like the Chapter You’re Living?

Last week I spoke to a large gathering of young moms. As I looked around the room of women seated at round tables I saw the fatigue of too little sleep, and the hopeful expressions of “please nourish me with something other than goldfish crackers”.

I know that most of them (probably with toddlers wrapped around their legs), stood in front of a mirror fretting about what to wear and how to camouflage a bulge here or there. I know I did too.

They worried about how much of their true story to reveal. They wondered if the chapter they’re living is important or impossible.

Each of us, married or single, parents or not, old or young, are living a chapter in the larger story of God.

You may not like this chapter you’re living right now. You may think it’s not important to the Storyline.

You see signs like this and you want to hurl something.


But God’s story doesn’t depend on our setting.

How did Moses feel about his chapter in the wilderness when God was writing a chapter of character refinement?

How did John feel about his chapter exiled on Patmos when God was writing a chapter of encouragement for the future?

How did Peter feel about his chapter in jail when God was writing a story of salvation for a jailer?

How did Joseph feel when he was sold into slavery when God was writing a chapter of rescue for His people?

Or how did Elizabeth feel during the MANY chapters of her life when she was barren when God was writing a chapter of preparation.

In Exodus 3:21 God says to his people in slavery (READ: crappy chapter!):

“I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed.”

But this promise isn’t fulfilled until Exodus 12:36! That’s chapters 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 that the Israelites had to trust that God was at work writing a redemptive story even though they couldn’t see it! They had to trust that even in the midst of harsh punishment and plagues and Pharaoh’s hard heart, God was at work. And they weren’t very good at it. Like you and I are often not very good at trusting that God is working in ways we can’t see.

God repeated His promises to the Israelites in Exodus 6, “but they did not listen to Him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.”

Sin is when we reject God’s script and try to write another one. We want to snatch the pen out of His hand and write ourselves out of a situation that God may be using for purposes we can’t see yet.

When we moved from Washington D.C. to Minneapolis, humanly speaking there was not enough time to sell our house in D.C. and close on one in our new state before John started work. We had two daughters under 3 years old, and I did not relish the idea of being a nomad wandering in the wilderness without a home (cue the violins). CLEARLY God needed my help with the script. I chose to snatch the pen away and try to write my own story.

And so I made an unethical choice. Before John had formally been offered the job, I whispered in the ear of a realtor friend that he could “unofficially” show our house on the DL while we were away in Minneapolis candidating.

When we arrived back in D.C. I called the realtor to ask if my plan had worked and he had a buyer. He said “Nope!”.

As soon as I hung up the phone, it rang. I picked it up and it was a different realtor who had no idea we were moving, but she had been in our house. She had a couple who had been looking for a home for a two years. She had described our house to them and they wanted to buy it sight unseen at asking price if we were willing to sell it.

And God said “HA!! I will ALWAYS be a better author than you. Trust me!”

If you’re living a chapter that seems like Egypt, seems impossible, it may be that you’re living Exodus 4-11, and like in chapter 12, a teacher recently pointed out to me that you won’t have to leave empty handed. Think about what you may be able to take with you from this chapter you’re living.


Who and Whose is Your Church?


You can just barely see me in the second row of this picture, taken at church yesterday. We celebrated the 60th anniversary of when believers first gathered on this corner of Minnesota in the midst of a farmland.

Outside the sanctuary more people – families with littles gathered around tables to participate with wiggle room. And outside the building, Minnesota couldn’t decide whether to be all blustery clouds, or sun-shiny. The weather reflected the many seasons we’ve experienced here.

As we worshipped, I cried because the picture above may look like a crowd to you, but we’ve been here 27 years, so it’s not a crowd. It’s a family of people with amazing stories of God’s love and redemption.

I turned and looked up to see my long-haired friend in the front row of the balcony who first rode up to church on his Harley, found love and acceptance and never looked back.

I was hugged by a teary woman I had prayed for a few months ago with alcohol on her breath at 9 a.m. She said “I’m making it.” referring to her recovery.

I laughed with the people who had been our first neighbors, whose kids created forts with ours, and came to Jesus through a backyard Bible study I hosted.

I met the new wife of a widower my age, and I watched a young widow pitch in as a volunteer for the bbq after worship.

As I stood talking, a 7 year old friend came and silently leaned up against me for a brief hug.

I cuddled babies belonging to young couples who were just engaged or newly married when I gathered them together as a small community 5 years ago.

Looking across the sanctuary I saw people we’ve done life with – 4th of July gatherings, weddings, births, New Year’s welcoming, and funerals. Together.

Among the folks gathered yesterday were also those who have hurt my feelings. Those who I’ve had to ask forgiveness. Some who have been critical. Others who have gossiped, including me.

This is the church.

I love Jesus. And I love the Church. But the Church isn’t Jesus.

We’re all a mess and we’ll let each other down from time to time.

We are both humble and proud.

Generous and selfish.

Open-handed and controlling.

Inclusive and exclusive.

Gracious and legalistic.

Brave and fearful.

But we keep showing up, because the grace of Jesus is why we’re here in the first place. 

We’re works in progress all.

In addition to the people I’ve named, I know there are some who are just watchers. Maybe wounded. Maybe shamed. Maybe feeling they don’t fit in. They stand on the edges. They slip out early. I try to look for them and take them by the hand and gently pull them in, but they’re slippery and they may not be ready.

If you’re a watcher, I understand. There was a season when I was a watcher too and the church just felt too dangerous. But I’d encourage you with this. It isn’t the church we trust in. It’s Jesus.

Yesterday I cried as I always do when we sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

We as a church are going to blow it, but it’s His faithfulness that carries us, that picks us up, that mends our broken hearts, that redeems our relationships and knits us together in love and forgiveness. And so we keep showing up together at 70th street and 100 with “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”




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