Tag: love (page 1 of 3)

2 Words That Will Improve a Strained Relationship

A friend of mine returns after a holiday visit with her in-laws. The relationship with her mother-in-law has been rough as a pot-hole-filled Minneapolis winter road from the start. Different interests, different expectations for the relationship, different cultures, different education…all of these are factors that leave these two both feeling like they are walking through a minefield whenever they are together.

They each go into time together armored up…wary. Over time, they have come to anticipate detonation rather than delight. The other becomes freeze-framed  as a caricature of their worst self…

“She is so ____________”

“Why is she so sensitive about _________________”

“I always have to __________________.”

Whether an in-law, or colleague or friendship that has soured, most of us have a relationship like this in our lives. I do. And as I have been reflecting on my friend with the in-law, and me with a difficult friendship, this is where the Lord has led me.

Humility promotes healing. 

To improve a strained relationship we need to remove our armor, examine our own failings, and offer two authentic words.

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Do You Feel Too Small?

The other day I was working in my “office” and this was my view.

I posted this on Instagram:

Do you see the two people in a canoe on the far side of the lake? They remind me of the first line in a book we used to read to our kids: “The world is big, but I’m so small….”

This morning I’ve been thinking how we can feel “small” in a way that says “insignificant”, or we can feel “small” in a way that says, “Wow! Be inspired. You are part of something bigger than yourself, held and loved by One bigger than yourself.” Whether you’re a teacher or a boss or a mom, I pray this Monday that you have a sense of being part of something great!

Two of my favorite Bible verses seem like they might be at odds with each other.

“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” Nehemiah 6:3

“Who dares despise the day of small things?” Zechariah 4:10

The thing is, our “small things” may also be the “great work” we are not to be distracted from. Our “small thing” may be showing up for a commitment when we don’t feel like it, listening longer than is comfortable, bringing a pot of soup to someone who feels tired and alone, reading a Bible story to a toddler… In each of our small things we have the opportunity to love well, to reflect the character of Jesus, to make an eternal impact.

What is your small thing that is also a “great work” God has given you today?

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.

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.


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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Baggage Claim

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that John and I had preached together on relationships. Specifically we talked about the baggage we bring that can weigh relationships down.


Years ago we were crossing the border between Israel and Egypt. Yeah, there was a tiny bit of tension…

Anyway, my suitcase went through the TSA scanner and we were waiting for the OK to go ahead, but a couple of soldiers kept staring at the X-ray screen, talking animatedly and using hand gestures that didn’t look particularly encouraging, especially when they called over reinforcements and then pointed at me saying “Come here!”

“What is THAT?” they asked pointing to a shape on the X-ray picture. Continue reading

The Secret I Learned From a Farmer in the Middle East

I’m still in Israel and Palestine as I write this…

where there are modern dividing walls, and an ancient wailing wall, biblical ruins,  refugee camps, olive trees, and ubiquitous tour buses, with sheep and shepherds liberally sprinkled throughout the countryside.


It’s a place where it’s easy to see why David described God as his Shepherd.

The 23rd Psalm might be the most famous go-to Psalm, but I’m wondering how many people really experience verse 5“You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies”.

That’s the line that keeps running through my head as we meet with Daoud Nassar at his farm on a hill outside Bethlehem that is ringed by Israeli settlements.

He is a Palestinian Christian who says “We refuse to be enemies” Continue reading

How Can We “Live in the Tension” with Love?

Tomorrow I leave on another trip to Israel/Palestine with Telos, an organization that is pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-peace.

The picture for me is completed when I add “Pro-Jesus”.

In case you were wondering, this is not an easy gig.

Loving people we don’t agree with is safe when it’s just a theory. Bob Goff

Some of you may already be angry with me, but one of the values of our church is a commitment to “live in the tension”. This doesn’t just apply to politics, but so many other social issues also.

Sometimes there are problems that can be solved, but often there are tensions must be managed.

Most of us love black and white, right and wrong, winners and losers, who’s in and who’s out.

We love boundary markers.

We want to major on love but not at the expense of truth, and that can be tricky.

Living in the tension is a hard one that can be misunderstood, but what it means is: Continue reading

4 Ways to Love Someone Well When You Disagree with Them

Last Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is legal nation-wide. This prompted an emotional response ranging from euphoric celebration to critical vitriol, to fearful-of-saying-the-wrong-thing silence.

This post is not about the ruling at all. Except it is, in that it is about loving one another well even when we disagree. Honestly, I am posting this with fear and trembling and a lot of prayer. Most will say I’m crazy for even trying to address this, but it’s only by leaning in and continuing to dialog that we’ll get anywhere, so here goes…

I can’t possibly in a gazillion years imagine how hard it is to be gay in our society. Even with growing understanding, and respect in the culture, the brutal experiences of rejection and dishonor I have heard about from friends who are gay, give me just a tiny glimpse of their world.

But I am also dismayed that it often seems in order for me not to be labeled a hater or homophobe I need to support every choice a gay person might endorse. It pains me that there are actually people who, in their support of gays, have turned a cold shoulder towards we who disagree with them in some areas of theology. It’s not easy for any of us to respectfully disagree and still love well.

And this is the most important work of my life, of your life – learning how to love others well.design

There is the image of Jesus, and the brokenness of sin in all of us. We are a beautiful ugly mess; every one of us in need of redemption. As we love each other we recognize more beauty and more brokenness, and we move towards becoming more of the person God designed us to be.

When we sit down in church (if we go to church), we sit down as gay, straight, bi…We live with an orientation we didn’t choose – not right, not wrong, just real. But regardless of orientation, we have choices and challenges as to how we will live. We sit among gossips and gluttons, those in recovery and rebellion, adulterers and idolators. They are us. Lovely, lost, and relentlessly pursued by our Creator.

Whether we sit in a pew or on a bar stool, I believe we’re all doing our best to find our way.

Do we ever totally agree with those sitting next to us? Probably not.

Can we still love them? Jesus commands it, so honey we’d better be on board with it. Continue reading

What are You Afraid Of?

This weekend I did something I didn’t want to do. I opened myself to something when I really wanted to remain safe, and closed. I did it because I thought it would be good for me, like eating Kale or going to Yoga class.  Healthy, but uncomfortable and not very palatable.

I put myself in an environment with a speaker whose theology I don’t always agree with. It was a situation where there would be questions and theories and ambiguity and nuance and I was afraid this person might speak for God in ways that wouldn’t make Him happy. More accurately, he might speak for God in ways that I wouldn’t.

My inclination is to run from controversy and fog like I’d run from an angry bear in the forest. But I want to be brave.

I’ve always preferred black and white to gray, the safe middle to the unknown edges when it comes to theology, and yet, I came out of seminary with more questions than I went in with, but also a bigger, safer, though more mysterious God.

Maybe I went in thinking I could study God like a scientist studies monkeys and learns to predict their movements.  But it was more like diving into the ocean with alternately crashing 10 foot high swells and then motionless becalmed water. The pull of the tide, and the dark, fathomless depths with sea caves and weird creatures.

So why, if I’ve felt secure enough to thrash in the sea with God, does my stomach clench when I’m in situations where someone might say something “wrong”, angry, or… gasp, even heretical? Continue reading

Stronger in Marriage

The other night two things happened.  I had my favorite salad at a cute little candlelit wine bar with friends, and John and I needed a do-over.

In the salad is sweet potatoes, spinach, pomegranate seeds, apples, golden raisins, goat cheese, bacon, and sunflower seeds.  I would never have thought to put all that different stuff together, but it’s awesome!

And that’s the kind of marriage John and I have.  We’re really different, but we naturally go together well.  I think we have a super strong marriage and although there have been seasons when I thought we could use a little less goat cheese in our salad, all in all we’ve had it pretty easy..photo-1

Which actually can be a negative because we can get lulled into complacency.

Maybe, it’s because it’s usually easy that it was a little surprising when John and I hit a little hiccup the other day…a misunderstanding in how to love each other well and we ended up hurting each other instead of helping each other.

It was an opportunity for us to say “How can we grow stronger in our marriage?” Continue reading

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