Category: Experiences (page 1 of 27)

Me and Mr. Trump

Kellyanne Conway (Trump advisor) : “Judge Donald Trump by “what’s in his heart [not] what’s come out of his mouth.”

Jesus: “…out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”*

Some people are so easy for me to judge. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. I compare myself with them and feel comfortably self-righteous.

“Bam! I’m better than THAT!”

“Pow! I’d never say THAT!”

Their speech, like gangrene, is so ugly and offensive it’s easy to recognize that they must have heart disease.

But then I read more of my Bible and I’m reminded:

The heart is deceitful above all things …” Jeremiah 17:9 as in “MY heart is deceitful above all things…” There is hidden heart decay that I don’t want to face. And then…

“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

That means I have heart a disease, and so do you. Even though my words may mask the condition of my heart more than others, there is pride and lack of love, and selfishness pumping through the chambers.

This weekend, John preached on the power of our words, and included an oral check-up. Some of these questions**may help you assess the condition of your heart, but then what? How do we do cardiac care?

Proverbs 4:23-24 says,

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Romans 12:2

We may hear this a lot, but do we really pay attention to it? It can be really uncomfortable, but what if we ask:

Will this…

movie…

relationship…

activity…

book…

Twitter/FB/Instagram feed…

contribute to my spiritual heart health or heart decay?

As a result will my heart be beating more in sync with the heart of Jesus and because of that will my words be more like His words? Or will I be more prone to crass language, gossip, criticism, cynicism…?

 

*Luke 6:45

**

  1. Would people say you talk too much or hold too much inside?
  2. Which is harder for you, receiving criticism, or offering it?
  3. Are you more about asking questions or giving answers?
  4. When is the last time you misrepresented/exaggerated/deceived/lied to someone?
  5. Sometimes we confuse swearing with bad language (gossip/anger/pettiness etc.) Which is more of a temptation for you?
  6. Words + faith…Is your faith a state secret? Do people see what they hear?
  7. When was the last time you resolved a conflict & strengthened a relationship?
  8. What would one who knows you say is truer: Grace over Truth or Truth over grace?
  9. In a typical conversation do you walk away feeling like the other person learned more about you, or you learned more about them?
  10. Who are the last 2 people you affirmed/blessed in a way they remember?

When You Need More Than Christmas Cookies

The other day I made Christmas cookies.

And by that I mean I made Jeans Bars, so named because they’re guaranteed to make your jeans tight.  Yeah.  I know, I know… Danger Will Robinson!

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But, it got me to thinking about the food I need far more than Christmas cookies.

And the God who has given to all of us who are hungry and thirsty for that “more”…

At church the other night we had communion.

I watched as a man guided his plump, smiley wife to the front.  Her eyes bright and expectant as a child’s.  Her blond curls tousled.

But, standing before the bread and “wine” offered to her, the confusion of Alzheimer’s transformed her face.  Take?  Eat?  What?  Her husband guided her hand to take the bread.  He gently helped her dunk it in the juice.

Yes.  Jesus.  For you.  It’s ok.

Sometimes the Gospel is just hard for me to understand.  Hard to believe.  Hard to accept.  

Like a child, I need that reassurance.

Yes, it’s really for you!  Yes, it’s really all forgiven. Yes, God delights in you.  It’s ok.

Another time, in another place, a friend of mine was in line for communion.  Hungry.  The woman in front of her stopped and started stacking piece upon piece of bread in her hand.  Apparently feeling the need for more of the lavish grace that Jesus offers.

My friend was startled and concerned at this rather bizarre behavior and lack of rule-following.  She thought, “What if there’s not enough for everyone?”

But there was.  There always is.

Sometimes I need to be reminded grace breaks all the rules.  And that I’m more needy than I know.  But Jesus is always enough.  His is not a snack, but a feast that saves me.

Another friend, a powerful, wealthy, young businessman, dying of a brain tumor came to understand that deep need, that deep hunger for the eternal.  He was broken to the point of utter dependence on Jesus.

Eventually he couldn’t speak clearly.  He was unable to use the right side of his body, arm, & hand…But still, he wanted to serve communion as he had many times when he was “healthy.”

And so, another came alongside, and they stood at the front of the church, one man holding the other up,  and both leaning on Jesus as together, they offered life to all who would come.

A physical picture of the the spiritual brokenness of all of us.

And as I came down the aisle to receive communion from my dying friend, I came as sister, also dying from my brokenness, to Jesus who offers more than Christmas cookies.

Christmas cookies.  A sacred reminder to me today of the “more” of eternity.

Do you have “pictures” like these of times when the truth of what Jesus offers has become more real to you?

What Do You Give the Power to Wreck You?

Question: What’s one thing that if, taken away from you, leaves you feeling hurt or even devastated, insecure, “less than”, not yourself, invalidated?

What is it that wrecks you?

  • A note from your kid’s teacher about an “issue”?
  • A breakup?
  • The loss of a title, or job?
  • The lack of invitation in a certain area?
  • Crickets rather than “likes” and affirmation in an environment where you thought you were gifted or competent?

How dependent are you on that “thing” for your sense of well-being?

I like to think of myself as “teflon” (don’t we all?), but then something big or little will surprise me the way it brings up all the yucky feels.

We want to be seen as the super-mom, the competent colleague, the successful host, the dynamic team leader.

“One of the tragedies of our life is that we keep forgetting who we are, and waste a lot of time to prove what doesn’t need to be proved.” Henri Nouwen

Confession: One of the reasons I took a sabbatical from writing this blog and one of the reasons I’m throwing out the “rules” of when and where and how to post now is that I recognized that it was sucking me into measuring my worth by the response I was getting. I needed to pursue a “holy indifference” to anything other than joyfully stewarding my gifts for the Lord alone.

 

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In 2015 the Barna Group did  a study that showed that women 18 and older in the United States, go to social media, trying to connect and feel better about themselves, but only 14% come away encouraged.

We’ve turned the Gospel into a matter of addition instead of subtraction. When we are so full of ourselves, we have no room—and no need—for God or others, or otherness in general. Richard Rohr

And this…

If we have not experienced (the) connection, (of) knowing that we are indeed a fragment of the Great Flame, we will most certainly need to accumulate more and more outer things as substitutes for self-worth. This, of course, is the great spiritual illusion. We needn’t acquire what we already have. Our value comes from our inherent participation in God. Richard Rohr

So…a few things that have been helpful to me. Maybe you too…

  • Separate from what separates you from your true identity in Jesus. If a relationship or a TV show, or seeing the posts of someone raises your anxiety or makes you feel less-than, ask yourself why. If necessary, block them from your feed, but better yet, have a conversation with them about it.
  • Major on the unchanging truth of God’s Word instead of the whims of culture and criticism. What’s one go-to verse that is helpful for you? For me it’s:

Find rest my soul in God alone. My hope comes from Him. He is my rock and my salvation. He is my fortress. I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Psalm 62:5-7

  • Evaluate what and who brings out the best in you. Lean into them, and let them lean into you.

That’s all I’ve got. What about you? What would you add?

Love Leaves a Light On

Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is to leave a light on.

My little brother David, and my sister-in-law live in the small town where I grew up.  Their home is a turn-of-the-century house with a wonderful front porch – swing and all.

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My brother loved investing in others, especially teens. During her high school years, David built a relationship with Sada.

Sada was not going through a typical teen rebellion. A brilliant, reflective soul, she was struggling with deep issues of justice, truth, and grace. Sada was an extraordinary girl with an equally exceptional brain and giant heart. She needed a safe place to examine issues of her heart and soul, darkness and light.

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The Waiting Room

I’m not a good wait-er.  At all.

As a wait-er you’re not in control (When are you ever, really?  But it feels worse when you’re waiting).

It feels like you can’t DO anything constructive.

It feels like everyone else is going on with their life and you’re on hold.

Most of us are waiting for something.

I have friends who are waiting for a husband.  Or a wife.

Friends who are waiting for a prodigal to return.

For an acceptance letter.  Or a baby.

Waiting for a diagnosis.  Or a cure.

Waiting for a job.  Or someone to need them.  Or a place where they feel like they’d be missed if they were gone.

Something I heard Holly Furtick say a few years ago really stuck with me.

She said, “What seems like a pointless or painful waiting room can be God’s most productive workroom.”

I thought “Aha!!  I love being productive!  Now she’s going to talk about what we can DO to CHANGE things and get out of the waiting room!”  Not so much.

The work that we do while waiting is most often soul work.  Inside stuff that requires patience (Does anyone like that word?), obedience, discernment and cooperation with God.

A few years ago my mom had surgery. In the waiting room where my Dad and I sat, they had this nifty flat screen and on it were listed all the patients in surgery for the day.  It tracked their progress, from pre-op, to surgery, to recovery room, to permanent room.  In addition, if the surgery was long, they’d send word out with a nurse as to how it was going.

When I’m waiting I could really use a spiritual progress monitor showing exactly how I’m doing and when it’s all gonna be over.

But instead of even enduring in the comfortable, clean lounge of a hospital, waiting often seems a lot more like we’re survivors of the Titanic, clinging to God among the wreckage in cold, dark water.  Disoriented and desperate to do something.

Every once in awhile we’ll flail our arms and try to swim to shore deluded into thinking we can swim the hundreds of miles on our own.  But we realize we can’t and we go back to clinging.

Clinging is the work of the waiting room.

We cling and we say “Lord, help me to see you. Somehow.  Today. Even for a second.

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And slowly, ever so slowly, the wait results in just a little bit more of the weight of His glory being formed in us.

Maybe the moment when we get the job or the baby or the whatever, isn’t the big deal, but rather the thousands of moments you choose courage and hope as you cling to the One who loves you.

One more thing…With my dad in the waiting room, it was easier because we had the company of each other.  So, today, if you’re waiting and you’re reading this, know that you’re not alone.

What’s your experience of waiting?

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.

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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.

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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?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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