Tag: faith (page 1 of 2)

What Binds us Together

In 1995 I took my first trip to Africa. It was at the height of the AIDS crisis in Uganda. There was little information, lots of myths, many were dying, and the air was permeated with fear.

Although Uganda has green hills and banana trees, the prominent images I carry with me from that first trip are those of coffins being carried along rust colored roads and the smell of smoke from cook fires.

One day we traveled beyond the hot, dusty nowhere, over lumpy paths to meet a woman who lost her husband, all her family members, and was caring for five orphaned children on her own.

Her name is Josephine – tall, lean, dark, and strong. She and friends greet us with dancing, songs, and the rare treat of an scrawny chicken that they had cooked for us, their guests.

We sit together on stumps next to her crumbling mud hut by an open fire, burned down to coals – her “table” of sorts. Gathered around are her people who are doing life by her side, helping with kids, and gardening, and encouraging. We try not to offend her sacrificial hospitality, choking down what she offers, knowing she will go without. I listen to Josephine share her story of loss after loss after loss, and I marvel at her resilience.

Finally, she turns to me, looks me in the eye, and asks, “What is it like for you, in America?”

I gulp, nervously thinking, how can I tell her? What can I tell her?!” How can this woman possibly understand a broken garage door, or pre-school teachers, or my grandmother who recently died in a comfortable, antiseptically clean hospital?

And then the Holy Spirit gives me some words. I say, “You know…our lives are very different. I don’t experience the day-to-day struggle you do here, but what I’m struck by is what we have in common. We are both mothers. We both have hopes, and dreams, and fears for our children, and we both look to God for help. We both have people He gives us.”

When we compare, we are driven apart. We get sucked into thinking “my loss is worse”, or “your loss is worse” but none of that matters. You may have lost a dream or a husband, and I lost a job, someone lost their home, another lost their sight. Loss is loss. We need each other. To hold hands and hearts. To hug and listen, and just be with each other in our pain. God knits us together with the common threads of hope and loss and joy. Together we read, and together we make choices:

“This day I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live..” Deuteronomy 30:19

I asked some blog readers to send me selfies wherever they are. As I scroll through these I tear up thinking of you – of the challenges and hopes you have today. We may not know each other personally, but we know God, and together we choose the Life that He offers.

Katie in Jordan, building bridges to Muslims  (I love this picture take at Petra!)

Carrie, minister to students in Edina MN.

Kathy, in pink, who is a Community Bible Study Leader (here with some of the women in her small group)

Jane, a world citizen and journalist who splits time mostly between Singapore and Switzerland.

3 generations of love – so much awesome in this picture! Sue, Kit, Ally, and Karen in Florida.

Daughter Maggie, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area and works in HR for Tesla (with Riggins who I’m sure reads the blog too).

Jess, a young mama in Minneapolis (with Greta Sue)

Christine, working with a non-profit in Nazareth

Daughter Katy, working as liaison between USAID and Congress in D.C.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing today, know that you are not alone!

A Faith that Carries Out

It’s New Year’s Day weekend and everyone in ministry is very tired. Every parent is tired. Every salesperson is tired. Maybe everyone everywhere is a little tired and ready to get back to a predictable routine. We love the sparkle and special of the Christmas season, but we’re ready to cross over into 2017.

Even if we may feel a little bit like this:

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Sunday I had the privilege of preaching at our church and I loved diving into the story of Joshua leading the Israelites across the Jordan river in Joshua 1-4.

We all have Jordan moments and we’re all at a crossing of sorts as we go into 2017. There is lots to learn from Joshua in this account, but one thing l thought I’d share with you is from Joshua 4:2

When the whole nation was finally across, God spoke to Joshua: “Select twelve men from the people, a man from each tribe, and tell them, ‘From right here, the middle of the Jordan where the feet of the priests are standing firm, take twelve stones. Carry them across with you and set them down in the place where you camp tonight.’”

After they have prepared,

after the Ark, representing the presence of the Lord has gone ahead

after the waters of the Jordan have been pulled back,

after the Israelites have crossed over,

God sends them back to carry out 12 stones. He has them pile those 12 stones as a memorial – a faith that points back to God’s faithfulness.

Think about what you are carrying out of 2016. 

Think back over each month. What might God want you to go back and remember to take out?

Resilience? Trust? Patience? Strength?

Are there experiences that could be millstones that God wants to make into stepping stones?

Are there things that could be stumbling blocks that God wants to make into building blocks?

Are there things you may have a tendency to trip over that God wants you to triumph over with His help?

Maybe talk to Him about all these stones. And embrace a faith that carries out.

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.

Three Questions to Ask When God Doesn’t Make Sense

It was January cold. I was 14-years-old and a brand new Christian, bravely bubbling over with faith and excitement about Jesus, reading my cool Bible and believing and praying.

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My friends were new to this Jesus too. Together faith was a daily adventure of new discoveries.

One frigid Friday night, we were bouncing along on a yellow school bus with our youth group down dark rural roads  heading to a ski weekend on the slopes of what pass for “mountains” in northern Wisconsin.

Jostling, laughing, gossiping, singing in the back of the bus, we were having a great time til someone bumped into me and a contact popped out of my eye onto the dark, sooty grit below our feet.

This is not a crisis except if you’re a teenage girl who wouldn’t be caught dead in glasses. (Plus, contacts all those years ago were darn expensive)

Everyone dropped to their knees, scouring the gross, wet rubber floor for the tiny piece of clear plastic.

We. Looked. Forever.

Nothing.

Still on our knees, we were ready to give up when one of my fellow newbies ventured, “You guys…What if… we pray???!!! Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?”

We closed our eyes, and my friend said, “Lord we can’t find this contact. You know where it is. Please help us.”

I literally opened my eyes, looked down, and astonished, picked up the lost contact.

We were ecstatic.

The creator of the universe – God Himself! – heard and responded to a few teenage girls with a little faith.

To this day I have no doubt that God graciously intervened on our behalf.

Fast forward to last year at this time. My brother David was diagnosed with Melanoma. Continue reading

It’s Not Your Story

“Then another generation grew up that didn’t know anything of God or the work He had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10

This was part of my reading the other morning, and it reminded me of some statistics I heard in a message by Craig Groeschel.

A Harvard Business Review article says only 10% of family businesses survive to the third generation. The first generation starts the business. The second generation runs the business. The third generation ruins the business.

Unfortunately we see this pattern in Scripture too. Think about Joshua. He leads the people into the Promised Land with great risk and reward. The second generation inherits the Promised Land. They haven’t fought any battles, they’re just preserving what’s been given to them and their worship of God becomes half-hearted. The 3rd generation sees the preservation and half-hearted worship without any risk or vision and they turn away from God.

Judges 21:25 says, In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

It’s incredibly difficult to pass anything from the first to the third generation.  What does that say to us who are parents? What does it say to those who are children of faith? Continue reading

Faith

Faith is a funny thing.  It shows up in hospital rooms and in the desperate “Help!” silently prayed in the midst of a tense conversation.  It seems to hover in the beauty of forests and night skies, punctuated with hallelujah’s.   It peeks around the corner where single moms struggle to survive and shows up brave where “I forgive you’s” are offered.  It’s whispered on the lips of soldiers dying in foreign countries, far from their moms.

But this week, as we attend both a family wedding and the funeral of a dear friend, it strikes me that faith surprises us most when we stop to look at life and see it in a multitude of “thank you’s”. Continue reading

5 Questions About…Infertility

IMG_0002Happy 4th of July!  As you read this, chances are I’ll be with my friend Cathy Wood, watching the parade, or fireworks or laughing about how we both could have been great spies.  There is so much I admire about Cathy.  Her ability to forgive hard things.  Her indomitable positive spirit. Her kindness, and listening ear.  We’ve been in a couples small group for about 25 years and she’s also one of the “7” girls, so I’ve been privileged to walk through a lot of life with her!  All of us either know someone or are someone who has wrestled with a dream to have kids, but an inability to make it happen.  I always benefit from her wisdom, so I’m thankful she agreed to share today!

1. What has been your experience with infertility?
We struggled with infertility and trying to create a family over about a decade.  Although this time is in the rearview mirror of my life, I can readily recall the cycle of doctor appointments, shots, temperature taking and miscarriages…periods of great hope and equally great despair. Thankfully, by the grace of God He brought us thru it all.  He has graciously put our family together thru primary/secondary infertility, adoption and natural birth.

2. What was the hardest thing for you while you struggled with infertility?
I think for me the hardest thing was believing that God was trustworthy and that I could trust him with the outcome. I could pray “ah yes this is a light and momentary trouble” but my heart was breaking. My borders defining God needed to be blown wide open. What did it mean to follow him? My current view wasn’t holding up. I kept thinking that God wanted me to do that “one thing” and then I’d get pregnant. Not sure what that one thing was but I kept trying to guess.

I spent lots of time staring at what I thought was a road block with blinking lights, razor wire and a sign that said ”keep out”. I could see others beyond the gate with children but I couldn’t get there. A turn away from this road to another path was dark and unknown. I had no idea what it would mean or require. I DIDN’T WANT TO GO! The decision really became do I go alone or with God? Slowly and gently (as I am stubborn), God turned my heart towards Him and then the road He had for us.

3. You have had children now, but what would you say to women who maybe are never able to conceive?                                                                                                  “I am so sorry” feels like the only one for me because no feeble attempt by me could make sense this side of heaven. God needs to handle that one. My sincere hope for them would be that they come to know and believe that God loves them and has not lost sight of them.

4. What advice would you give to those who are walking alongside women experiencing infertility?                                                                                                   It is a privilege and holy ground to be let into a person’s life at any time but especially when it is a painful season. Being a safe place to share deep emotions and process is a gift to another. I think it’s a way God redeems our own experiences. Pray, trust God and show up. He’ll do the rest.

5. What did you learn about God and yourself during your season of infertility?
Ha!  Well I would love to say I never doubted… that I have the gift of unshakeable faith but I don’t want to be struck by lightning! I tend to be a bit more of a rebel. What I learned was that God is gracious and merciful. When I began to seek Him, stumble after him and look for Him in the everyday, not just answering this big prayer, I discovered He was there and had been there all the time with small surprises of Himself, the love of friends, reminders of His grace and answered prayer in his time.

Additional Resources Cathy found helpful:

Disappointment With God by Phillip Yancey

If you liked this post, you might also like The Spiritual Discipline of Plan B.

Continue reading

Easter and a Lunch in Jerusalem

It’s Easter week and I do NOT have the gift of evangelism.  Easter delights me.  Evangelism…well, not so much.

Can you relate?

I was part of a Christian organization in college that taught us to “share our faith” (read: tell people how messed up they are and scare the Hell out of them.  Literally).  We had to go out and practice “sharing” the 4 Spiritual Laws with people (read: random, confused strangers).

It may have scarred me for life – not the tract, the way of “sharing”.

Or maybe I’m just using that as an excuse.  I have nothing against the 4 Spiritual Laws as a resource.  Ironically it is how I came to faith in Jesus.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was sitting around a table in Jerusalem eating lunch with a very diverse group of people.

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There were other Jesus-followers like me (you know, kind, sensitive, careful to not offend).

And there was our host, who pastors a church of mostly Messianic Jews.  He is passionate about bringing Jews into a relationship with Jesus – accepting Him as their Messiah.

Lastly there was a Jewish couple at the table who do not buy the Jesus as Messiah line.

I sat in the middle of the table with the “Burdened pastor guy” at one end, and the Jewish couple at the other.

What if the Jewish couple felt offended, uncomfortable, or judged?

What if the pastor “preached” at them (or served pork?).

What if my friend Matt Moberg asked a question that stepped on someone’s toes somewhere at the table and they slammed down their fork and stormed out?

I know that the Gospel can be offensive even if we don’t make it offensive with our delivery. (1 Cor. 1:23, Romans 9:33)

But it didn’t happen.  What also didn’t happen was an honest conversation where real questions were asked respectfully from both ends of the table.

The pastor shared his prayer – that the Jews would come to know Jesus as their savior.

The Jews at the table did not fall to their knees and “pray the prayer of salvation”.  Everyone was respectful and no blood was shed.

Afterwards it prompted several conversations in our group about our posture towards non-believers in Jesus, or explorers, or people of other faiths.

Augustine said “Preach the gospel everywhere. If necessary use words.”  Most of us, I think, have decided that words are really never necessary.

Are we actually denying our faith by our uber-sensitive silence?

I’ve been thinking…What if we, as Christians, saw ourselves as hosts at a luncheon, around a table with guests of varying experiences, just like the one I attended in Jerusalem?  Maybe we’d prioritize

  • People over projects.  If you’re getting to know someone, you want to KNOW about them and have them know about you…authentically.  Build on what you have in common, but be honest about where you have different perspectives or experience.
  • Love language over foreign language.  Genuinely care for the other.  Ask yourself  if you’re speaking a “language” they’ll relate to.
  • Conversation over conversion (which means more asking than telling)
  • Appetizers over All-you-can-eat Old Country Buffet. Offer tiny bites (like those mini desserts in shot glasses they have now).  Don’t try to cram a whole meal down someone’s throat.

Like I said, I’m really not good at this, so I’m trying to learn.  Are there experiences or thoughts you can share?

“But in your hears revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect…”  1 Peter 3:15

 

 

Learning the Language of Peace

Ok, so here’s the thing.  Two years ago when I traveled back to the Holy Land, I didn’t know where the West Bank was.  West Bank of what?   And if the West Bank is so important, what’s up with the East Bank?  Anything?

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I didn’t know what, where, or why the settlements were so controversial.  The Nakba? Is that a type of falafel?  It was all Greek, (or, more accurately, Hebrew) to me.

I didn’t know the mean things Muslims had done to Christians, or Christians had done to Jews, or Israelis had done to Palestinians.  Or what everyone had done to everyone else. Continue reading

No More Bozos For Jesus?

This morning I was praying for some twenty-somethings I know who have kind of wandered away from God.  They’re really enjoying the partying hard thing, the sex without strings thing, and carpe without commitment.  I was praying that God might draw them back to Himself – remind them of the grace and meaning and joy to be found in dependence on Him.

But I have a Confession:  I don’t have the gift of “evangelism” and I often think I don’t care as much as I should about the souls of those far from God.  The culture of “live and let live” has immunized me.  Plus there’s the risk of making anyone feel like a “project” or being labeled one of “those” Christians with pat answers and tracts in place of candy at Halloween that scares me.  Unknown-1

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