Tag: life (page 1 of 4)

The Other “F Word”

Good Morning! I’m taking a little sabbatical this summer, and thought maybe with all tragedies in the world, and “other” bashing, I’d repost a series from several years ago. I pray you are having  a delightful summer and regardless of your circumstances you’re finding ways to make it more than “fine”.

One afternoon when Katy was in kindergarten she got off the bus and informed me that she had learned “the f-word.”


She later told us she had also learned the “sh-word”

“Shut up.”

Honestly, in our family the real “f-word” isn’t fart.  And it isn’t another word that might come to mind.

It’s “fine”.

To my mind, “fine” may be the most terrible word in the english language.  And words matter as my friend Sharon always reminds me.

Continue reading

How Do You Choose Life in the Midst of Death?

Friends, I share this in the hopes that it will encourage those of you, in particular, who have dealt with loss this year.


Dear Baby David,

It’s a lilac-blooming, cut-grass wafting, bike-riding spring season here. Life is bursting out everywhere.

Today is your birthday. It’s also Mother’s Day – a cruel irony for Mom.

A year ago you were in the midst of the fight for your earthly life. And then in two months it was over.

You’ve been gone from our sight since July 18th, but you continue to show up when I see a mischievous grin, or an arms-open-wide welcome, the painting of a fly-fisherman, a dad playing ball with his kids, a question that is asked in order to take a faith conversation beyond the surface…

It’s still hard to comprehend that you are not physically here with us. As the year progresses, we link arms as a family, stumbling together through the holidays and everydays. The thing we share is our steadfast love of you and each other. But we each grieve and process in different ways. We’re trying to listen deeply to each other.

I think when someone we crazy-love dies (husband, dad, brother, son) the biggest challenge is continuing to choose Life.

First of all, we just. don’t. WANT. to. We want to wake up and have you grilling on the patio like you should be. We don’t want to let you go – as if we could, by sheer will pull you back in like a kite that has been taken out of sight by the wind.

Also, it feels somehow that letting go and envisioning a new life without you in it is wrong…a betrayal. Like doing that somehow negates our love and devotion to you…How can we possibly continue without a vital, beloved piece of our lives?

But here’s the thing that helps me. In the everyday ordinary stuff and even as you were dying, you chose Life.


You chose Life first and foremost because you chose Jesus, affirming that He loves and forgives us, and as you always said, “He’s the good Author of our story.”

And then you chose life by seeing the image of Jesus in others, and serving those who felt like their life was over, and by laughing easily at yourself, and by your delight in His creation.

So we continue to choose Life even in the midst of death.

Susan is both devastated and courageous.

The tension between acceptance and the temptation to be stuck wallowing forever is real, but she has taken monumental steps in choosing Life.

She can be brave because you affirmed every day that she is capable of doing hard things. You would be so proud of her just as we are.

  • She does the hard dance of stretching herself, but knows when she needs to withdraw and rest with Jesus.
  • Her faith remains authentic and vibrant, but she hasn’t been able to go back to church without you and she knows that’s ok in this season.
  • She goes back into cancer wards with Sophia the wonder dog to bring comfort in painful situations she is all too familiar with.


  • She organized Team Dave Strong and Courageous to raise money for Melanoma research.


  • She is painting the downstairs a lighter color to lighten her mood.
  • She put together the Dave Johansen Memorial Leadership Lending Library at your office, so you are continuing to mentor others even in your absence.
  • She seeks grief support and community, but isn’t afraid to say what is helpful and what isn’t, what’s too soon, what’s uncomfortable, and what works. She recently has connected with a group of young widows started by another person YOU influenced with your life.
  • And she continues to seek glimpses of the Eternal. This was what she posted yesterday.


Loss hurts, but love wins when we continue to choose Life. You probably already know all this, but we’re trying down here. We’re really trying.


Your “Sweet sis”


March Madness

The other day it snowed again. Yes, in case you’ve lost track it’s the end of March.

The year we moved to Minnesota there were flurries on May first.

This is just so wrong. But we’re a hardy folks up here in Lake Wobegon country don’tcha know.


But this morning the sun came out and it’s supposed to hit 40 degrees and I saw a bunny hopping across my path so maybe God isn’t dead.


The thing is, when life is ugly (and even when it’s beautiful), I think the most important spiritual discipline is paying attention – being wholeheartedly present in the moment and alert to God. Continue reading

The Questions of Life and Death

My sister-in-law, Susan is a strong and courageous woman of faith. She read this and asked me to post it in the hopes that it might encourage, comfort, or inspire others. We know that many are walking hard roads with challenges we can’t imagine.

It’s a glorious summer morning as I sit on my brother’s front porch in a wicker rocker. Birds are chattering about new-day things. A bunny is nibbling breakfast in the front yard near the hydrangea and today’s paper waits in the driveway to be picked up. A jogger and a dog-walker pass by.

As a friend says, “This is the Lifiest time of year.”


People open junk mail, play a set of tennis, watch a friend’s wedding video on Facebook, water gardens, laugh at jokes, cut the lawn.

Inside the house my brother dances back and forth with one foot in heaven and one still on earth.


This feels surreal. It can’t be happening. Life and death, and life and Life.

Things beginning, things ending. Things growing, things dying.

I stare at the pictures rotating through my screen-saver. Photos of us in foreign countries – with kids thirsty for clean water in Africa, with survivors of a tsunami in Sri Lanka, with Palestinians in a refugee camp longing for home – the World outside our world.

Every day, people trying to choose Life.

This is a week when, in some ways life is on hold and we’re just waiting; day to day, minute to minute.

We’re simultaneously holding our breath and trying to breathe. 

But in other ways everything is so…normal. We do all the regular stuff and wonder, “How? How can we do life while David seems to be moving towards death?”

I wake up off and on throughout the nights and pray, “God help. Hold. Heal.”

We say “Prayer changes things”, but what we really hope is that prayer will just change “THINGS” and not change US.

This time God seems to want to change us – to make us “Lifier” people with an ear to heaven and an eye on eternity. Continue reading

Re-Writing “Mother’s Day”

Mother’s Day is tricky. Can I get an “amen”?!

We all have a mother somewhere, but not every mom is accessible. Not everyone has a relationship with their mom that they feel like celebrating. Not every child is living the life you hoped for them. And not everyone who would like to be a mom IS a mom right now. Someone reading this has lost a child. Another has been adopted.

Mother’s Day is full of land mines, often triggered by the most tentative steps. Sometimes a day meant to be about love is one of longing or loss…of pain, tears, and unmet expectations. I’ve cheered you right up, eh? Continue reading

What to Do on Your Thursday & Friday When You Can’t See Sunday

It’s Thursday morning as I write this. I’m sitting at “my” table at Starbucks, greeting regulars in this coffee community between reading the account of Jesus’ last Thursday before the cross.

As I am sitting here, a friend stops by my table. A friend going through a dark, dark, time.

Her own cross. Her own death, waiting for resurrection.

She made a brave choice, but the pain on this side seems worse than ever. Betrayal from people near her, loss of community, questions of God. It’s her “good” Friday and she can’t see to Easter Sunday yet.

I think of her as I learn from Jesus walking through His Thursday and Friday before Sunday. We focus so often on how Jesus is God and perfect, and we aspire to be transformed into people who look more like Him, that we sometimes miss the ways He looked like us.  He had friends who let Him down, and desires for an easier way, but in His most Thursday and Friday moments maybe we can learn from Him.

  • On Jesus’ darkest days He gathers with His people. He leans into community. He speaks truth and He asks for help. (Mt. 26:17-46).
  • He gives thanks.(Mt. 26:27, 30) Not a fakey “Praise the Lord I’m dying here!”, but a genuine gratitude for patches of God-light in the midst of darkness. A sunrise, a loaf of bread, a hug, fresh spring breeze. There is power in thanksgiving in the midst of hard circumstances.
  • But Jesus leans into His Father more than His community. He prays, because He knows as important as the company of friends is, the company of God is the only sure thing. (Mt.26:39)
  • There is a rhythm of engaging and withdrawing. Going into Jerusalem and going out to Bethany to stay with friends. Sitting with his home team around a meal, and sitting alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, a short distance away. (21:1, 10, 17, 18; 26:6, 30, 36) Time for processing, and preparation, silence and solitude.
  • He’s doesn’t hold back. He pours out His heart. (Mt. 26:39)

“My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

  • He submits to His Father’s will because He trusts His good plans. He trusts His Father’s ability to bring redemption and resurrection. New life out of painful death. (Mt. 26:39)


As I think of my friend right here at Starbucks, I also think of many of you who are reading this in offices and homes and dorm rooms around the world.  Is it Thursday or Friday for you today?  As you look at this hard time are there choices Jesus made that might be helpful to you?

 We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. Hebrews 14:15-16 MSG

**Just a quick note…I’ve changed the commenting system. The good news is it is easier to comment. The bad news is that the first couple of times you comment the system requires me to “release” or “approve” your remarks before they show up. I try to stay on top of it, but don’t worry if your comment doesn’t show up immediately! 🙂

Failing Lent

How’s Lent been going for you?  Me? I’m really terrible at it.  My husband majored in Lent, growing up Catholic, but not me. It was never part of our faith tradition, and now it always seems to sneak up on me and all of a sudden it’s Ash Wednesday and I’m stressed about what I should or shouldn’t be doing or giving up, and what the meaning is supposed to be.

Am I supposed to identify with Jesus’ sacrifice or am I supposed to fast from worldly stuff that is sucking the life of Jesus out of me, or am I supposed to pull back to reflect on All Of The Deep Things?


Those words “should” and “supposed to” float through the air in slow motion like a hand grenade or a heat seeking missile looking for where it can do the most damage. I end up feeling muddled and guilty that I haven’t done it “right”, whatever “right” is.

I can’t find the word “Lent” in my concordance, and certainly not “Thou shalt prepare for Easter by…” But I do think intentional preparation for Easter is a good thing.

I think the idea of Lent is to help us pay attention to God and life and death and resurrection the way it would be good to pay attention to Him all the time – like at 5 o’clock on a July evening when we’re sitting on the patio eating burgers, or on October 3rd in line at the grocery store.

So I’ve muddled through Lent again this year, unlike a young friend I mentor who has fasted from pop (but only brown pop), and sweets (but not on on her birthday or during the week she was in Italy, and chocolate covered almonds don’t count).  I laugh at her, but she says even this has really helped her pay attention and turn to Jesus in the moments she wants things she is sacrificing.

You cannot have resurrection without death.

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Hospitality: Ideas For those Who are Hospi-phobic and Those Who are Fearless Too

It’s One Word Friday!

Like I wrote recently, part of “Choose Life” means choosing to exercise our gifts.

And you’ve got ’em!  You’re talented and capable and you’re gamers.

Hospitality seems to be one of mine, (although it’s easy to see how others are doing it so much better).  Some of you may have this gift too.  I hope you’ll add your ideas in the comments.

For others the thought of guests ringing your doorbell makes you want to hide under your bed.

Whether hospitality is one of your gifts or not, it’s a reflection of God’s welcoming heart that we’re all called to live out.  I hope this post will give you some resources and encouragement!

4 Suggestions if you’re new to opening your home: Continue reading

How to Make a Difference Today

I’ve been a little “off” lately.  A bit of a cranky pants.  And as I examined why, the thing that I noticed was that I’ve really been neglecting the soul rhythm of time in God’s Word.  So this morning I started on a new Bible reading plan, breathing in Genesis 1.

And two things clicked together – God’s words for me, and words for others

First, when I read… I read, pray, & meditate (RPM).  Actually it’s not usually in that order, but RPM is catchy :).

I read the passage and meditate on it.  And what I mean by meditate is that I try to pay attention to verses God quickens my spirit to, and specifically I ask “What does this passage teach me about God and about myself?”

Then I pray the passage into my life. Continue reading

Is God Always the Hard Choice?

It’s One Word Friday!

Ok, so I’m not sure how I got there, but after becoming a Christian in my teens, I fell into a default mode that always assumed that God’s will must be the hardest, and most painful choice I was faced with.

Broccoli or brownie?  Broccoli must be more holy.

Cat or dog?  God surely hates cats so He must want to refine my character by inflicting a cat on me (if this is true, I’m not committed enough to be a disciple) Continue reading

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