The Six Hardest Words to Say to Each Other

In our marriage, John and I agree the six hardest words for us to say to each other are, “You were right.” (and even worse) “I was wrong.”

Or even “We were both right and we were both wrong.”

The thing is, not only are those words hard to say, it’s brutal work facing our own misperceptions and listening and getting to the place of being able to truly own the humility behind them.

A few people I know are in a bad spot right now. They are angry and hurt and sure that they are right and everyone else is wrong. They are so sure of their rightness, that they are not willing to talk or listen to anyone with a differing viewpoint.

If you’re reading this and your heart is racing, thinking “Is she writing about me???!!” The answer is yes. I’m writing about you (whoever you are). And me. And all of us.

Because who of us haven’t been in this spot from time to time – like a toddler with eyes squeezed shut and fists clenched, desperately in need of a “Settle down and take a time out until you’re yourself again.”

A few weeks ago I read the account of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9 in my devotional time and I have not been able to get one thought out of my mind.

Saul was PASSIONATELY religious. He was POSITIVE he was right and righteous and obedient to God as he persecuted Christians – eyes squeezed shut, fists clenched. Ironically he had to literally be blinded before he could recognize how spiritually blind he was. It was only when Jesus entered the picture that eventually his eyes were opened and he saw things differently. Slowly his hands and his heart opened to something new.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about. What things are we SO SURE OF? Are there perceptions or judgments that, if we invited Jesus in, He might change our minds, and uncover blind spots? That feels scary and vulnerable and really uncomfortable.

I LOVE being right! There are times when I gather my righteous indignation around me like a comfy blanket on a cold dark night. I don’t like the thought that I might be wrong!

So….What do you feel self-righteous about? Who is someone you disagree with? What questions could you ask to better understand their perspective?

Today I pray: Lord your Word says our hearts are deceitful above all things. Only You can uncover my blind spots, my impure motives, my misperceptions, my self-righteousness. I desire to humble myself before You today. Search me and show me where I’m wrong…where I need to ask forgiveness…where I need new eyes to see.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

What’s Your Super-power?

“If you could have any ‘super-power’ what would it be?”

That was the ice-breaker question posed at a women’s gathering I attended. Peals of laughter could be heard from different small groups around the room as women shared a desire for everything from a “Bewitched” nose twitch to clean their kids’ mess, to a cloaking devise, to the ability to be “beamed up” out of uncomfortable situations.

It’s a fun question to think about, but unfortunately we often seriously compare ourselves to others and think “Oh…I wish I had THAT ‘super-power’!” The gifts and talents others have can seem so “SUPERior” in light of our own that can feel so ordinary.

There are two reasons comparison is so dangerous. When we compare, the result is either pride or despair. Neither are pleasing to God, right? 

As women, I think we’re more prone to the despair end of the spectrum. Satan’s kryptonite seems to be that diabolical little word “as”.

He whispers,

“Not as pretty as…”

Not as good a mom as…”

“Not as popular as…”

“Not as smart as…”

Recently, my small group did a book study, and there is one line from Genesis 3:11 that we have gotten in the habit of repeating to one another when we feel discouraged or “less than”,

This is from Genesis 3: 9-11  when God is talking to Adam:

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

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

 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked?

God knows HE  didn’t tell Adam he was naked.

Is the message you’re hearing really from God? Or is it from someone else? 

After all, God is the One who said you are fearfully and wonderfully made, the One who said He has created good plans in advance for you to do, the One who said He has called you by name, you are His – His chosen, His beloved, the one He sings over…

So today, instead of comparing, let’s remember this…

Four Words About One Word and Spiritual Growth

 I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first dayuntil now,  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6

Are you ever a little spiritually ADD?

Feel like it’s one step forward and two steps back in terms of spiritual growth?

Have you forgotten your One Word ? The one you prayed about and was sure God was going to use to make 2017 the year of AMAZING JESUS AWESOMENESS?

Well sister, here are my three words for you. YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE.

I checked in with some from our blog community about how their “One Word” focus is going this year and thought I’d share their thoughts with you.

Meghann: My word for the year was, “NARRATIVE.”  I really regret it now because this looks like it’s going to be a long road to travel, to trust, and really listen to a different narrative about myself.
 
I know the truth is that I’m not “weak and pathetic” because I’m really broken down, and I’m not “making it worse” by not just pushing past it.  But, ugh.  Would be nice if I could just wake up one morning and say, “What was that?  Moving on…”

 

A reader who lives in the mountains in the middle of Jamaica sent me a note after my last post on my “one word” .

“My 2017 word is LIGHT and I am not doing too badly with it, trying to be intentional at least once weekly.
I chose to use a separate journal and am glad I did. Using the word in my centered prayer practice which I’m just learning, is helpful too. He is truly the Light and brings light to my understanding as I seek Him.”

Heather: My word is BRAVE – learning what brave looks like when I need to say “no” even to good things or when it means disappointing someone…Learning that brave looks and feels different than I sometimes think it will/does, and learning how to be brave in situations that are beyond ME.

Carrie: My word(S) (because you know I can never choose just one) is “YOU WILL”. I need to be steadfast in that God will provide, God will fight for me, God will lavish love on me and those around me, God will move among our students and our church, God will meet me wherever I’m at.

To me, it is more than “God can“. I need to believe and live out of the truth that he will because he is FOR me and good to me. I’ve struggled with believing that over the years. I’ve thought He was good in nature and good to other people and good for me but not always good to me. The verses that I was drawn to on this were Mark 11:22-25 and Ephesians 3:20-21.

Theresa: I couldn’t decide on a word…I’m in such a period of survival. But I do feel now like I’m almost to the top of this mountain and looking forward to what God has in store!

 Molly: I got a pretty notebook and I chose a word but I don’t remember what it was! 

Jesus is about infinity do-overs!

So you see?? You are not alone! It’s ok if you didn’t choose a word and it’s ok if you want to start now! It’s ok if you’ve stumbled a bit this week.
 
 What about the rest of you? Share your experience in the comments.

Use Your Words

We make a lot of runs to our Twin Cities airport, so I’m used to passing the sign that says:

This is a caution…a warning we’re all familiar with since 9/11.

If you see something suspicious, say something and keep us all safe, right? Speak up!

“Use your words.” as we say to toddlers.

But I thought of that sign yesterday as I was leaving Starbucks. The barista paid me a compliment and I was beaming.

He didn’t need to say anything, and it cost him nothing. It made my day.

I thought of all the times I see someone wearing a top I think is cute, or I observe a teen being kind and polite, or a mom being uber patient with her littles… I want to be the person who always speaks up.  The one who says something positive to a stranger or a friend.

I heard a wonderful story the other day about Mohamed Sanu, an Atlanta Falcons football player who received this note from someone who took the time to speak up –  a family sitting behind him on a flight:

This family used their words to affirm someone they would never see again.

Life is hard. There is so much to discourage us out there, right? Let’s use our words to be each other’s best cheerleaders!

If you see something (positive), say something today.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thes. 5:11

What Does God Have to Say to You Today?

I’m a lake girl. I grew up learning to swim in a lake in Wisconsin that was big and deep and dark blue and often the wind whipped the waves into a frenzy. But it was a place I felt safe, treading water or diving under into the silent calm beneath the surface.

Friday I was not on a lake, but by the Pacific Ocean.

I walk along the beach wrapped the early morning air, cool and damp. The spray of crashing waves reaches out to tickle me every once in awhile. Fog shrouds the mountains encircling the bay, making them look like a watercolor painting or a dream – fuzzy in the distance.

My prayer is one common to me on my walks.

“Lord, what do you have to teach me about myself and Yourself today?”

There’s rarely an immediate answer, but rather, like an old-school photo developing in a water tray, something gradually emerges.

Usually.

I’m encouraged by this promise as I walk:

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

Sometimes the picture that develops is heart-warming… encouraging. Sometimes it’s convicting.

Sometimes it feels profound, but often, like today, it’s just a series of small reminders as I reflect on the power of the ocean before me.

The Lord whispers, “You can let the waves wreck you or refine you.”

Lord, how powerful is your love!

The waves of Your grace relentlessly pour over me like the tide coming in.

Help me not to resist the waters of Your correction that smooth my rough edges like polished sea glass on the shore.

Your faithfulness teaches me I can remain safe in storms.

Do you not realize who I am? Do you not fear Me? Do you not shake in the presence of the Eternal, the Creator of all things? 

It is I who has drawn for all time the boundaries of the sea.

The waves may crash and roar against the sand, But the waters do not cross the lines I have drawn. Jeremiah 5:22 (Voice)

“God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake, Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.” Psalm 46:1-3

When we are mature – attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ – “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” Ephesians 4:14 (NIV)

What are you learning about yourself and God today?

 

Soul Food for the Redeemed

Hey Friends,

If you’re new to the blog, I try to take most Fridays to share a hodgepodge of resources that may be encouraging, interesting, beautiful, or funny. This week I’ve been thinking about the word, “redeemed.”

I love the word, the image, the value of God as our Redeemer!

The dictionary defines redeem: “to make (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) better or more acceptable” or “to recover ownership of by paying a specified sum”.

 But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

I had a friend years ago who used to buy her clothes at a resale shop as a tangible reminder that she, like her clothes, had been bought back by Jesus.

And then, there’s this…

Isaiah 53:1-2 describes the joy of the redeemed this way:

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
    the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
    it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
    the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
    the splendor of our God.

And then this picture on Instagram illustrates it.

Recently I received an advance copy of the book, Redeeming Ruth, to review. Meadow Rue Merrill writes with journalistic authenticity and detail of her family’s response to God’s prompting to adopt a young girl with disabilities from Africa.

Counter to our desire to paint everything as “up and to the right” in the Christian life, in spite of their sacrifice, this family suffers and loses. Nevertheless, they trust a good God to redeem their pain in ways they didn’t choose, and may not readily understand. This is a story of obedience and hope.

As I read it, I thought of so many friends living hard stories. I thought of my friend Emily who also adopted kids from Africa, and I gave my copy to her. I asked her to share her thoughts below.

As the mother of an adopted daughter, I resonate with much that Meadow describes in her book. She is honest about the journey towards, in and through adoption- a rare view inside what it truly means to bring a child from a hard place into your home. One strong theme in the book was that redemption comes only through suffering and how Meadow and her family chose to take on much of Ruth’s pain – emotional, physical, mental – so that Ruth could move towards health and wholeness. This is a hidden cost of intentional relationships, not just limited to adoption.

Redeeming Ruth is a great read for anyone who has trusted God with an important piece of life – whether a dream, a hope, a fear or a relationship – and has had that piece get crushed or remade or unearthed in a new way. Trusting God doesn’t mean everything is going to turn out okay. Our hearts may be bruised along the way, but He will be with us.

Redeeming Ruth releases May 1st. 

One Thing We Have in Common With John

It’s weird to think of having anything in common with the people we meet in Scripture, and yet, what an encouragement, right?!

A couple weeks ago as I was preparing an Easter sermon, something struck me that I hadn’t really thought about before.

In John, the apostle, I notice something positive I aspire to, and a weakness we share. Read what John wrote…

John 20: 1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

This is both cool and comical!

I love it that John is so grounded in the unshakeable knowledge that he is the one Jesus LOVES!

We are too – each of us as if we are the ONLY one! Like a proud parent, if Jesus carried a wallet, your picture would be in it and He’d want to show it to others with delight! This is the mindset we aspire to – that we would walk into each day with the assurance that we are beloved. No matter what we do or don’t do.

But then, the part that makes me laugh. Here’s he’s writing about the resurrection, but John makes a point of telling us TWICE that he beat Peter to the tomb. He ran faster!

I might be tempted to say “What a guy thing!”, but in our family the women are just as competitive as the men. There is this temptation in each of us to compare what we DO to what others do, even though Jesus tells us it’s not about what we DO, but about what He has DONE for us.

No matter how fast John or you, or I run, we can’t outrun God’s grace.

When we compare, there are two pitfalls. We either get sucked into pride because we’re better than, or despair because we’re worse than. Jesus wants us to know that we aren’t better or worse, but unique and beloved.

John isn’t the only one. Peter compares his life to John’s too.

John 21: 20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believersthat this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?

When I’m tempted to compare myself to others, this is what I hear Jesus whispering in my ear: “What is that to you?”

Later, Paul writes, “For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Phil.4:11 NIV

One writer notes, “The Greek word rendered ‘content‘ here denotes more than just a throwing up of arms in reluctant acceptance. At its root it literally means: ‘to be satisfied to the point where I am no longer disturbed or disquieted.'”

“Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” Phil. 4:13 MSG

May we live this day secure, not superior.

Confident without comparing.

 

In the Bunker with Jesus

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about parenting and our view of God. Later I was at a park with my friend, Emily Conrad, and her children. I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside Emily through some really dark times.

She is a woman of tremendous faith and authenticity who is “working out her salvation”, looking for the real Jesus. When I asked her to share where she had seen Jesus recently, she told this story which I asked her to write down for you. It is a joy to welcome Emily to the blog today!

In my basement, there is a storage closet that we have lovingly started calling The Bunker.

It houses my camping gear & tent, Christmas wrapping paper, numerous garage sale items and far too many books from grad school.

About a month ago, my husband and I decided that our children (or maybe ourselves) needed a safe place to get out all of our angst, our anger, our emotions that have a tendency to scare the other members of the family in the midst of daily life with five people.

We made up a rule that the Bunker was the place to go when you feel out of control, and that Mom or Dad would stay in the Bunker with you while you yelled or screamed or cried at the top of your lungs. However, we might use our earplugs so that our eardrums didn’t shatter.  The important thing, though, was that we would stay together in the messiness. Specifically, we thought our middle daughter might benefit from a safe place to “just get it all out”- and side note, our therapist gave us the green light for this idea. ☺

Our middle daughter is a rock star 6 yr old, a little lady who has faced more uphill battles in the first few years of her life than most people face in their entire lifetime- abandonment, attachment issues, relocation, being the lone black kiddo in a white family, change of name-all before she was 2 years old. And with all of that comes a lot of heartache and emotions that she can’t process in her body so it often comes out in brutal, ugly screaming- like a torrent of anger and loss and pain. I want to say that I am able to handle her strong emotions like a champ. I’ve been her Mom for four years already – I should be a pro. However, that’s not quite true. Her outbursts make me want to run away most days, if I’m really honest.

So recently we had a moment, my daughter and I, when I was getting heated up at just the same rate that she was getting heated up. Things were not going to end well. An issue that started out small and was rapidly blowing up.

Time to head to the Bunker. This was not super well-received, but we headed to the Bunker anyway.

At first there was a total refusal to work through things: “I’m not mad and I’m not going to do this”, which quickly turned into an epic scream fest, (by her-not me). Think banshee decibel. I calmly popped in my earplugs as she was screaming and I thought to myself, “Go ahead, girlfriend, get it all out. I am in total control here. Do what you’ve gotta do. I am calm.” Not very empathic, obviously.

As she stood there screaming, beads of sweat on her forehead, I noticed something in my spirit that went like this: “I wish I wasn’t stuck in here. This feels so messy and chaotic. Ugh. Anyone else want to trade places with me?! I don’t do mess.”

And as I stood with my daughter in the Bunker, but not truly with her, I realized that I don’t like bunker situations.  In fact, I usually run from them.

But I know that the past several years of my life have been just that- Bunker-y. Messy, chaotic, yuck…both internally and externally as we have navigated life with our daughter. It has been lonely and exhausting and has felt like the pit of despair- just like it felt in the Bunker that day.

After several minutes, there was a flicker of hope that went off in my heart as I started crying, rather sobbing, over my life and my mistakes and my own heartache and my own need to feel heard and loved in the midst of messiness and brokenness – how I have needed someone to be with me in the thick of it. In the Bunker, I felt Jesus say, “I am with you in all of your Bunker, in your anger, in your despair, and it’s not too much for Me. I can take this on for you.”

I turned to my daughter and with what can only be called the mercy and compassion of Jesus, I saw her tears and fear and pain and I thought, “I can take this on for you- I can stay with you in the Bunker whatever that entails. I can take on your messiness and chaos because that’s what love does.” As I knelt down to my daughter and hugged her and cried with her, there was such a profound sense of connection and empathy and I-am-with-you-in-this, all of this.

I’m not sure if you have a place or a sacred moment or even someone who sits in the Bunker with you, but I hope these things for you.

Do You Feel Like You’re Wearing an Invisibility Cloak?

Do you ever feel like you’ve accidentally put on Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak?

A few years ago a couple of people made an appointment with me.  I didn’t know what their agenda was.  When we met all they did was ask me questions about a painful experience.

And then they listened.

And asked more questions.  And listened some more.

They asked, “and then what happened?” and “how did you feel?” and “oh no!” and “what can we do?” like it really made a difference to them.

And here’s the thing.  Yes, what was asked and answered was important, but the most transformative thing for our relationship was that when I walked away I didn’t feel invisible anymore.  It felt like I mattered.   What I thought, what I felt, the pain I had experienced made a difference to them.  Have you had an experience like this?

A few years ago my husband and I had the opportunity to spend some time with former President Clinton in a couple different contexts (no he would not remember my name!).  Regardless of what you think about his politics or his morals, here’s a man who makes people feel like they matter.

We were wrapping up an interview with him when he saw an African American guy with a saxophone that was about 189 years old in a back hallway.  Clinton got so excited asking this guy about the brand of sax he played, and the type he used to play, and the music he liked.  He laughed and they swapped sax stories and he asked questions and really listened.

Clinton was so present it was hard for his handlers to tear him away.  One of the most powerful men in the world.  And he was saying to this man, “I may be the president of the United States, but you matter too.”

This is Joe.

He’s a guy with Down’s Syndrome who has a great smile and a can-do spirit.  He’s the guy who sweeps the stairs at exactly the same time every morning at my health club.  When I first asked his name he looked scared, like he had done something wrong.

When I thank him each day for his great work he always looks a little surprised.  Today I took another step and asked him, “Joe, how long have you worked here?  Do you like your job?”

I’ve noticed Joe.  I’ve tried to let him know he matters.  But how many others do I miss during the day who are longing to be noticed?  Feeling like they’re accidentally wearing and invisibility cloak?

What if Jesus hadn’t looked up to see Zaccheus?  What if He hadn’t taken time to talk to the woman who touched the hem of His robe?

When is a time when someone made you feel like you mattered?  Who are the people you tend to overlook?  Who would feel affirmed if you asked a question and listened?

Looking for Dad

Friday I’m sitting in the back of Starbucks with my Bible and study books laid out before me when a dad in a dark business suit walks in with his teenage son before work and school.

Dad just has coffee.

Son sits down with most everything edible on the menu – the meal of a growing guy who’s already taller than his father. Instead of coffee, he sips from a juice box – the one hint that there is still a little boy hiding inside this gangly boy/man.

Father and son are awkwardly silent. Eyes glance anywhere but at each other. It’s painful to watch.  I can almost hear their minds spinning, searching for common ground…anything to talk about in this season when a head of red hair seems to be the only thing they share.

What if I say something stupid?

What if he sees my weakness?

After a few seconds Dad gets up with his coffee and walks out into the hall, leaving son behind without saying anything. Is he looking for a bathroom? Making a call? Can he just not stand the deafening silence?

Teenage Opie sits alone, eating his breakfast. Curiously, I notice that he doesn’t pull out a smartphone to distract or entertain himself. He just eats, looking lonely. And I wonder what’s going through his mind. What is he thinking about his dad?

Does he know God? What might this relationship be teaching him about his heavenly Father?

“I will never leave or forsake you.”

“Nothing can separate us from the love of God…”

“Come to me…”

The dad never comes back, and when finished eating, the son wanders into the hall looking for him.

What if Dad had said, “This is a hard season for both of us. I want to be a good dad, but I’m unsure of myself. I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing, but I care. I want to listen to what’s important to you. I’m for you. Nothing can make me love you less than I do right now.”

Saturday I was at the same table when a young mom comes in with her 4-year-old daughter, large cheery pink bow in her hair and a smile to match.

Although in an easier season, like Dad and son, this mom and daughter have a chasm of years and experience between them.

But Mom never once pulls out a cell phone. She looks her daughter in the eye and  asks questions and chats about everything important to a toddler.

What is that little girl learning about her heavenly Parent?

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

 

When we are present, when we lean in, when create safe places, we reflect the image of our Heavenly Father.

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