Tag: sin (page 1 of 2)

The T.V. Preacher and Me

Very early most mornings at Starbucks, my elderly gentleman friend Stan, walks over from his home in the neighborhood to buy his morning paper and stops by my “office” to chat. The other day he was telling me about a new t.v. preacher he had discovered who he really likes.

I asked the name of this guy and when Stan told me I gulped and bit my tongue as I continued to listen. I wanted to say “Stan! Don’t you know about this guy?! Don’t you know about what he DID back in the day?!! I would never listen to him!”

And then the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “What if you were judged by all your past sins? What if you weren’t allowed to grow and change?”

I thought, “Jesus is about forever tries and redemption and new life. Am I?”

It made me think about all the people I’ve “written off” with labels like “out-of-control”, “racist”, “addict”, “unhealthy”, “materialistic”, “victim”…


I thought of the woman caught in adultery in John 8 and I wondered how Jesus’ grace affected her. Did she change? Did people let her become something other than the label, “adulterer”? Were they able to see the label Jesus gave her: “Beloved”?

Today there’s someone who comes to mind who I’ve given the label, “User”. I haven’t seen him for years, but today I’m praying for him and in my mind as I pray, I’m picturing that label being removed from him, and replaced by one that says “Beloved”.

Why I Don’t Like Lent

Last week was Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  I was in Florida and John was in Thailand when he wrote this in an email:

Can I let you in on a secret?  I’m so much more a Christmas guy than an Easter person; I know it sounds sacrilegious, but I love THAT part of the story, cuz of the hope and the joy (and the presents)… And the absence of all that ‘sin talk’ and the beatings, trials abandonments and crosses.

There’s a little scene where the two unlikely heroes of the Lord of the Rings, Sam and Frodo, are hiding and near death, and Sam says, “Do you think think they’ll ever tell our adventure, Mr. Frodo?… ‘Maybe Sam, but this is the part where the children will say, skip this part, Dad, I don’t like this chapter.‘”  I know how Frodo feels, on Ash Wednesday.

My response? Me too, me too, me too!

Lent is the part of the story that is ugly and messy and requires humility and self-examination and I’d really rather avoid both thank you very much. Continue reading

What to do When You Want to Flip off the Other Guy

I was stuck in a single lane of traffic, late for a meeting, with a car in front of me from Rhode Island and a driver who couldn’t decide which way she wanted to turn (bless her heart).  AAARRRRGGHHH!  I found myself, once again bemoaning the fact that Christians don’t seem to have acceptable hand gestures for situations like this.

My road rage was just one of the times recently that I’ve noticed an increase in irritability, and impatience.  My “one word” for this year is “choose life”, but recently I started to notice a pattern of “not life” and needed to address it.

Like my friend says, I’m more of a “jet fuel drinker” than a “candle-lighter”.  I realized that in a summer of activity I had abandoned some of the spiritual practices that feed my soul.  I naturally resist the slower more contemplative disciplines of life with Jesus, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Continue reading

When Mistakes Have Been Made and You Want to Hide

I’ve titled this series “When Mistakes Have Been Made”, but I’m thinking that may minimize what we’re talking about and what many of us experience.  Maybe the title should be something more like “When you’ve messed up messier than Lindsay Lohan.” or “When your sin seems like a toxic waste dump”.

The problem is most people are doing the best they can.  They’re trying really hard to do the right thing.

Sometimes as a leader you make an error in judgement that hurts many like friendly fire.  Other times you feel like you’re walking through a land mine of personal sin. But you long to do better.

Whether it’s your personal choices, or identifying with a community that has behaved badly, sometimes you just want to hide. I’ve written about silence and lament, but clearly there’s more.

When I make mistakes I think I want to hide, but I realize I really want something else.

This is a note I framed that Katy wrote when she was about 4 or 5 years old.

IMG_3323 In case you can’t decipher it it says,

“Do not come in! P.S. I will be under the covers.”

In other words, I’m hiding, but I really want to be found. I want you to find me and love me no matter what I’ve done or how bad I’ve messed up. 

Isn’t there a part of all of us that feels that way? A desire to be known. Found. Accepted no matter how big the mistake. No matter how “not good enough” we feel.

I’ve been thinking lately that I should hang another picture underneath this note.

picture of the Samaritan woman at the well. The woman trying to hide in plain sight, going to the well in the middle of the day – like an obese person shopping at Walmart at midnight – so she wouldn’t be shamed by critics.

It struck me recently when I was teaching on this passage… What is it that she runs back and tells everyone after her encounter with Jesus? What impacted her the most? “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out.” (John 4:29 MSG). He saw her and He still accepted her. She mattered to Jesus.

Just a reminder. In case you’re feeling like you’re under the covers and no one knows, you’re wrong. God knows. He sees. He loves you. No matter how “not good enough” you are.


When Mistakes Have Been Made and You Don’t Know What to Do

I vividly remember the second time I ever saw my husband, John.

He was up in front of the congregation at the church I was attending. He was the youth pastor, fresh out of seminary and it was his first time preaching. He was leading the congregation in reading the morning Scripture passage responsively – him one verse, us the next. The problem was he was reading from one Psalm and the congregation was reading from another – the correct one – the one printed in the bulletin.

After a few awkward, “off” responses that left people confused, he stopped and said, “Have you ever made a really big mistake in front of a lot of people?”

I may have fallen in love with him at that moment. A leader who can own his mistakes and move on is rare.

But some mistakes are much bigger than others.  Sometimes owning our mistakes is complicated and the consequential damage can seem irreparable. Continue reading

Two Responses to What Lies Beneath

On my list of gifts, one that recurs often is “fresh snow” (Lou Malnati’s pizza is also a top runner).  Snow is as magical as fairy dust to me.  It’s a good thing I love it, because I live where there’s a lot of it.


As I write this, here in Minnesota it’s snowing.  Again.  Like it does just about every three days for the six months we call winter.

It’s hard to believe, but a day is coming when it will start to melt.  And when it does we move from “Winter”, not to “Spring” as they do in North Carolina, for example, but to “Butt Ugly”.

While the cherry blossoms are exploding around the tidal basin in Washington D.C. and the Bluebonnets are dancing across the hills of Texas, the gorgeous white crystals that have been blanketing everything in Minnesota start to mushify (yes, that’s a thing), exposing trash from last fall, like gum wrappers and a single tennis shoe, and the mitten someone lost. I’m still hoping my keys that disappeared on a walk around Lake Harriet five years ago will turn up.

origin_3142410504photo credit: chicagopublicmedia via photopincc

I love snow when it’s new and fresh.  It’s always been a visual reminder to me of God’s grace, and grits in Louisiana.  It just comes.  Snow, like grace, is not something we work for or make happen.

But the “Butt Ugly” season is a visual reminder too. It’s a reminder that while I can receive the gift of forgiveness and mercy for the ugliness of sin in my life, I need to be careful that I don’t just bury it without dealing with it. Kind of like that email that’s going to be hard to respond to so you put it in a file to answer to later.

What do I do with the trash that lies beneath? Continue reading

Four Words That Can Change Your Day

The other day I was driving back home after dropping a friend at the airport.  On the highway someone merged in front of me into the right lane going about 30 mph.  There was another car in the left lane next to me so I had to slam on my brakes to avoid running into the creeper-merger.

I may have yelled the “i” word in frustration and anger.

As I eventually was able to pull into the left lane and speed past the offender I looked to my right and saw what appeared to be a young Somali woman hunched over the wheel, anxious, timid, and clearly unsure of where she was going.

And four words smacked me upside the head: Continue reading

Dear Movies About All of the Things in the Real World,

Dear Movies About All of The Things in the “Real” world,

I’m writing you to put you on notice.

I’m taking away your stars and giving you a rotten tomato.  You may get critical blah blah  for being “authentically raw”, but so what?  It’s too easy.  It’s like saying we need to hear Lindsay Lohan is behaving badly.  Again.

I don’t think so.

UnknownYou’re down and dirty, but I’m gonna take you out with a Ninja kick to your mojo and call your bluff.  Your world is not all there is.

Reality without redemption, you are dead to me.

Greed, sex, drugs, lies, betrayal, selfishness?  I know you’re everywhere, not just in the kingdom of Wall Street. I don’t need to be reminded.

I need instead, to see glimpses of another kingdom. Continue reading

Dance. Just for Today

I’m tired of significant and meaningful and reflective.  I’m tired of seriousness and sin.  I’m weary of North Korea, and Congo and terror in Boston.  I want someone else to be responsible for today.  And I feel like a terrible human being admitting that.

Just for today I want to dance in the kitchen and hug my kids, and write a thank you note and eat fresh berries.

A friend of mine who works tirelessly for justice in the ugliest parts of the world was, at one time, on a sailboat in a lovely tropical port.  She said she wrestled with the incongruity, the unfairness of the situation.  Why should she get to enjoy such a lovely respite while so many are fighting for survival, enduring violence, and oppression?  How could she accept the gift that is her relatively privileged life?

Continue reading

On Gossip and Ashes and Enough

I heard a really juicy bit of gossip the other day.  It was about someone many of you would know.  It was not favorable.  And it was really tempting to shout it from the rooftops like some ancient town crier, “Hear ye, hear ye!  Do you know what SHE did???!  Can you believe it??”

And, this is the terrible confession I have to have to make:  There was a small part of my dark shriveled prune pit heart that was… delighted.  Yes, delighted because it made me feel “better than”.  Superior.  Like I’m winning the spiritual points Olympics today.

Grace?  Who needs grace?  I’m better than someone!

And then it all came crashing down.  I read something by someone godly.  Much more Jesus-y than me, and getting a lot of attention for being Jesus-y.  And all of a sudden I felt worse than.  Worthless.  Not good enough for kingdom stuff.

How often do we walk into a room and determine our worth (and even the state of our relationship with God) by how well we stack up to others around us?  Do we look for those who are more clearly selfish, sinful, ungrateful, and breathe a sigh of relief that at least we’re not there?  Not that?  We’re better than someone.

Do I define “righteousness” as “better than”?  So “unrighteous” is “worse than”?

I read recently that theologian C.H. Spurgeon once said, “It is easier to save us from our sins than from our righteousness.”

So today we come to the cross and the ashes of this special Wednesday with as much honesty as we can muster.  It’s time to give up the illusion that our righteousness is anything other than filthy rags.   A time to come clean about our dirt.

We are an ashy mess.

Ashes – a gritty reminder of our sinfulness that says to the world, “This is who I am and what I want to repent of.”


None of us are enough.

We’re never good enough to earn His favor.

But we’re never bad enough to be beyond the reach of God’s grace.

Somehow, in spite of it all, He’s still crazy about us, His stumbling, bumbling children.

We are, all of us, all covered in Ashes.  And nothing we do or don’t do today can make God love us any more.  Or less.  Than He does at this moment.

Lord have mercy.  On me.  A sinner.  A comparer.  An “older brother”.  A prideful striver, an image-manager.

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