Waiting While “Nothing” is Happening

There is no such thing as “nothing” happening. If you are waiting, something is happening. Waiting is happening.

As John Ortberg says, “Biblically, waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.”

Abraham waited 25 years for the only thing he wanted: Isaac. In that time of waiting, he came up with 3 creative, unhelpful ways to shortcut waiting (I think you’ll relate as well as I did!). Despite Abraham’s fumbles, God re-shaped Abraham’s dependencies and desires in a way that grew him into a friend of God and a man of faith. So much is happening while we wait. As we pay attention, our unanswered prayers may start to point us to God’s promises.

Here’s an audio link…(tech credit goes to the handsome Mike Ditty)

 

Disclaimer: I structured this talk intentionally to be LIVE and interactive. Thank you for your imagination with the audio only version.

OH…and here is the video clip that I show at the end of the teaching.

Also, this is important. When the audio software tries to figure out what CD is playing as I preach this message, it’s best guess is Celine Dion. Obviously. So we might just start calling this message “The Power of Love”…I’m open to suggestions.

 

What to Give Yourself for Mother’s Day

I always get in trouble for buying my own Mother’s Day present. My kids are little and have zero taste.

What I really want this year is a little peace. A little quiet.

I’m giving myself 5 days of mom-mornings this week before Mother’s Day. Want to join in? Take 20 minutes for yourself and lock the door. Let’s carve out some silence for our souls.

Your gift to you:

  • Try to start or end your day (whichever time you feel most alert) with this practice.
  • Quiet Listen to a worship song, sit in silence, or pray.  As distractions come, let them move past quickly.
  • Read the Bible verses for each day. Notice any word, truth, or conclusion that stands out. Consider reading the Message translation
  • Meditate on the questions, consider journaling your answers.
  • Pray before you move on. Be in awe. Be sorry. Be thankful. Ask for help. Leave some silence to listen.
  • Share what you are thinking about with a friend or lifegroup, or here in the comments section.


Day 1

Quiet

Read: Isaiah 43:1-7

Meditate: What words or images move you? How does God think about you? What does being precious to God feel like?

Pray

 

Day 2

Quiet

Read: Psalm 63:1-8

Meditate: Have you ever been in awe of God? What do you want (or thirst for) most? What does it mean to cling to God?

Pray

 

Day 3

Quiet

Read: Romans 8:18-27

Meditate: How are you feeling weak or groaning right now? What are you hoping or waiting for? How could the Holy Spirit help you?

Pray


Day 4

Quiet

Read: 1 John 4:7-21

Meditate: How can you know if you have the Holy Spirit? How do you give love? How do you receive love?  Where do you feel hate, fear, or bitterness?

Pray

 

Day 5

Quiet

Read: Ephesians 3:14-21

Meditate: Where do you see the power of God moving, changing, healing, or inviting in your life?  What is God’s love for you like? Where are you resisting Him?

Pray

***

I’m praying for you, this week, that you hear God’s voice. I’d love to know what he whispers to you. If it’s something you can share, let us celebrate with you in the comments section.

 

Two Words that Say “I Love You” better than Flowers

He’s under the dining room table again. Hand covered face to the floor, and little finger tips tangled in the blond mess on the top of his head. Every time I kneel on the carpet and lower my head to see between the chair legs, my body reminds me of the gentle posture of God and the shadowy figure of a little boy looks just like me hiding.

“Sweetheart, don’t stay under there by yourself. We love you.”

His sister is poking her head around the corner of the wall now, less angry than she was a few moments ago.

His big eyes look up to see if it is safe. Slowly he slides out to the edge of the table, only to curl his tiny body into a ball before fully abandoning his cave.

My four-year-old son sheepishly looks up at his big sister, who he has just hurt, and says “I love you.” Her shoulders drop and her face softens, she gives him a hug.

“What else do you want to say?” I gently ask him.

I would be more amazed at how hard it is for kids to say “sorry” if I didn’t know for myself the shame and embarrassment of apologizing.

“It’s important,” I remind him. I could not believe it more.

Saying “I’m sorry” is not only how we receive forgiveness, saying “I’m sorry” is how we say “I love you.”

It’s a beautiful thing to be forgiven and for guilt to lose its heaviness. But sometimes the freedom of forgiveness isn’t enough to motivate us to come out from under the table.

I grew up in a family that pretended things didn’t happen, but might occasionally ask “We’re good, right?” Getting a “Sure, ya, we’re good.” might ease the guilt or tension in a situation, but it gives up the love and growth that come from working things out.

Saying “I’m sorry” means that you are willing to take on the shame of apologizing to fight for making things right. It means that you love the other person enough to be humble and admit that something wrong did happen, and that it was your fault. That you respect them enough to do the hard work of having a real relationship.

Saying “I’m sorry” matters.

Which relationships do you have that are worth fighting for?

  • Is there anyone you need to apologize to?
  • If there is someone who you need to ask for an apology?

Love is patient, and kind, and forgiving, and all of those things are as hard as they are beautiful.

May God give us the grace to love each other well, even when it’s tough.

Happy Love Day!

So Lonely I Could Cry

This summer has been slow for writing. We’ve been on vacation and moving and running through the sprinklers. I did have a chance to write for one of my favorite blogs, though!  I’m over at the Mudroom today. Come visit!  Stay a while, there are so many beautiful, honest and raw stories there.

I’m talking about the loneliest time of my life, which actually came when I was married and had two beautiful children. Loneliness is not about having people, it’s about loving people. There’s less magic than it seems.

Come on over to the Mudroom to hear the Truth About Loneliness.

When your “next big thing” isn’t happening yet

The salty sea captain had the kind of leathery wrinkles of a man who seized life in the sun.  He squinted and laughed and pretended like he didn’t normally swear.  It was the best Groupon I ever bought.  A full weekend of sailing lessons for my husband and I.

We did man overboard drills and we jibbed and tacked.  I almost ran the boat into the dock.

Our lessons were a few years ago, but I remembered something the other morning about changing direction while sailing.  There is a swell of energy and bliss as the wind is carrying a sailboat, but changing direction involves a strange transition.  The boat goes from soaring to almost still, the sails go from full and majestic to slack and flapping.  You shift the boom, hold your breath, and wait…because the sail should fill with wind again.

I’m in a season of changing direction.  How about you?

I’d love to go into this coming fall with strength and momentum, but it feels more like slowing down, of watching my sail flap a little in the wind.  I’m holding my breath and trusting the wind is still there, that I’ve pointed myself in the right direction, and that this pause is a necessary part of moving forward.

If you’re holding random pieces of dreams that don’t seem to fit together,
If you’re not sure which work to set down and which to chase after,
If you’re looking at change and not sure what’s on the other side…

Let that sail slack.  Watch it flap a bit in the breeze.  Breathe in the salty air.  This is the moment.  It’s the still place where God can change your direction to take you towards all he is dreaming of for you. Don’t look at the horizon.  Close your eyes.  This is the time to stay still and stay close.  Listen for whispers.  Be comfortable with the quiet.  Don’t be so foolish and anxious that for God to lead you he would have to yank on your leash like an untrained puppy.  The wind has not left the ocean.  It’s simply changing direction.

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
    that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.” Psalm 32:8-9

The Smell of Sunscreen and Body Shame

Hello, Memorial Day Weekend.  Time to pull out those shorts from last summer and see if they still fit.  I jumped in the pool at the gym with my kids yesterday and was plunged back into all my insecurity about my body (which I totally already got over).

Making this list helps me.  My body is for…

  • Snuggles
  • Communicating to me what my soul has to say (if I will listen)
  • Showing up for others to physically remind them that God cares
  • Giving a physical expression to the emotional intimacy my husband and I share
  • Modeling healthy habits and self-perception, to my kids especially
  • A way to build and track my own character around discipline and endurance when I try to diet or exercise
  • A way to give myself rest and notice when I am not getting enough rest
  • I’ll probably think of more by the time I finish this cup of coffee…

Or as Teresa of Avila would say,

Christ has no body but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes
with which He looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet
with which He walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which He blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands.
Yours are the feet.
Yours are the eyes.
You are His body.

Christ has no body on earth but yours.

To which I would add,

Christ has no skinny jean muffin top on earth except for mine (and maybe yours).  Instead of hating my body I want to take care of this sacred expression of love.  I want to eat well and be outside.  I want to take time to rest.  I want to care less about what other people think of me in a swim suit than I care about how they are feeling that day.

If I hate my body or punish my body I will never be able to love everyBODY around me or experience God’s love for me this summer.  Forget that.  I want sand in my toes, chlorine in my hair, love in my heart, and laughter spilling out everywhere.

Let’s do this body of Christ thing together, this summer. Are you in?

After all…

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. – 1John 4:12

It’s not just the inner beauty that counts.  It’s the way we can live like we’re loved and be free to think about and love others that counts this summer.  I want to remember how much fun I had this summer, how many memories I made with my kids and our friends, not how awkward I felt.

What are you going to use your body for this weekend?

Holy Week: How #LoveWins even when Hate is in Charge

I think it’s called a trigger.  That thing that makes you feel all sorts of feelings inside that are so much bigger than the “thing”. The thing that makes you feel things you’ve felt before but don’t fully understand. Or in my case, the thing that makes me nearly suffocate in panic.  During Lent I read the stories of Holy Week.  Jesus’ religious trial triggered strong emotion.

It was an illegal trial, legitimized by the authority of the High Priest and other religious leaders there.  Angry men crowded in, exhaustion and adrenaline fueling the hate and rage.  Darkness outside.  Flames of fire flicker on house lamps as shadows veiled the faces of violent accusers.  No one spoke in turn.  Witnesses lied unapologetically but still could not agree, even when coerced by the court.  Eventually the violent mob gave up their façade of justice. They settled for being strong enough to beat a blindfolded man.

I tried to let my imagination stand in that room for one minute, but it all started spinning.  I felt panicked, scared, abused, powerless.  The evil was almost visible, inky black.  Furrowed eyebrows, feigned frustration, nonsensical words of unwavering hatred.

I wondered, did Jesus see what I see? 

Humans.  We aren’t worth saving.  We don’t even want to be saved.  We use religion as a stamp of approval from God and misuse the authority that it provides.  We look for people to hate and then decide to hate them no matter what.  We look for people to blame, people to fear, people to punish, people to be angry at.  We tell lies to ourselves and others so that we can give each other permission to be violent.  Oh Lord Jesus, you should have walked away.

But then I saw something else, did Jesus see?

Sin.  Its dark tentacles were never meant to wrap around a human that way.  Sin broke man’s ability to reflect all that is incredible about God.  It dragged humans so far away from God that man could choose to masquerade as a force of evil.  Their accusations fueled by self interest and pride.  Their forceful blows expressing mindless rage.  Those words and jabs giving the artificial sense of control that sin desires.  That sin consuming the souls of the men who thought they were powerful.

Jesus stood trial in an affronting and repulsive orgy of hate and violence and injustice. All presided over by the high priest, a man whose name evoked reverence.

Jesus had already decided to take on unimaginable pain and the cross and sin and death. I wonder if his determination to die was affirmed by that dark trial.  I wonder if he saw the cost of sin most clearly in our faces as we crucified him. 

The feelings gripping my gut at Jesus’ trial allowed me to experience other feelings that I’ve been struggling to rationalize.

I feel overwhelmed by the red faced rhetoric of politics.  The racism and misogyny.  Humans stuck in fear and blame and anger.  Humans trying to believe lies that will give them permission to hate refugees, immigrants, and muslims. Accusations flying.  Hate permeating.  A smirking satisfaction in the smiles of those that abuse the powerless.  I feel small and scared and incredulous. I wonder if love actually wins when hate fights so dirty.

Sometimes it looks like love is getting beat up and blinded and abused.  In reality it is slowly doing its work.  Jesus didn’t come to win a country or win a fight.  I see Jesus, his eyes set like flint in determination to accomplish victory over sin and death. No need to say more or yell louder.

So I choose to focus on the work of love God has put in front of me, and resist my own pride and anger.  Because I follow Jesus.  Hate may feel pervasive and powerful in the world, but it can never win.

Love has already won.

Why every Evangelical Christian should read this book by a Catholic Priest

After hundreds of years of accusations and arguments, a shift is happening between Catholics and Protestants.  As both churches focus on social justice issues, there is common ground forming.  Pope Francis has a 60% approval rating among evangelicals.  Regardless of doctrine or culture differences, Protestants are beginning to remember that the Catholic church had a rich history of being the primary representation of Christ in our world for hundreds of years.

I am a protestant evangelical with no desire to convert to Catholicism, and there are a number of Catholic traditions that I protest. Still, I have deeply enjoyed reading books by great Catholic authors like Henri Nouwen, Richard Rohr, and Jacques Philippe. These men write about spirituality as men who are intimate with God. I recognize them as brothers though I’m sure we disagree on many things.  That is how families usually work.

I recently read Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe.  It challenged me and changed me. If you are trying to follow Christ but get frustrated by people or circumstances or your own shortcomings (does that cover all of us?) then you need to read this book.

Jacques Philippe believes that Christ has made it possible for us to live in freedom.  Ultimately, we grow into that freedom by expanding our ability to express faith, hope, and love.  Philippe describes interior freedom as someone who can experience the goodness of God in the midst of any circumstance.   In his words:

“We show the greatness of our freedom when we transform reality, but still more when we accept it trustingly as given to us day after day.” 

Freedom may give us rose colored glasses, or it may give us the strength to live in an ugly world without any rose glasses at all.  We all have choices when it comes to dealing with difficult situations.  Philippe says we can Rebel, Resign, or Consent.  Many Christians know it is futile to rebel against reality, but consider it godly to resign to whatever may be plaguing.  Philippe challenges the idea that resigning to God’s reality is not the ultimate act of freedom or piety because it holds no hope.  The aim is for consent.  Consent is when someone can “say yes to a reality we initially saw as negative, because we realize that something positive may arise from it.  That hints at hope.” 

Philippe emphasizes seeing everything as a gift from God. Good things, bad things, even our own spiritual growth towards maturity.  In light of that, difficult circumstances are not God withholding gifts from us.  Some dark times are a time we rely on God’s gifts more closely, some dark times may end up being a gift in hindsight.

No human being or Satan himself can rob us of God’s grace in our lives.

You may have good reasons to feel deprived of having a good parent or good education or good leaders at your work or for your country.  As Philippe points out “Disappointment in a relationship with someone from whom we were expecting a lot (maybe too much) can teach us to go deeper in prayer, in our relationship with God, and to look to Him for that fullness, that peace and security, that only His infinite love can guarantee.

This book explores the invitation to freedom and how freedom is expressed through countless stories and words of wisdom, including the topics of:

  • Accepting ourselves
  • Allowing God to accept us
  • Accepting other people
  • Accepting suffering
  • Being available and interruptible
  • Pride and true humility

All of this in the smallest, thinnest book I have read this year.  There are only 134 pages and the font size and spacing makes it a very quick read in theory.  I took three days to read this one because what it lacks in length it certainly makes up for in depth- there were a few times I needed to set it down and think and pray.

If you want to be free from insecurity, bitterness, pride, or the desire for control so that you can grow toward God in faith, hope, and love then READ THIS BOOK.

I’d love to hear what you think after you’ve read it!

Mother Teresa and Making the World Happier

Mother Teresa said, “If you want to bring happiness to the world, go home and love your family.”

MotherTeresaQuote

Loving your family is a world changing, death defying act of happiness creation.

As you love your family well your children are learning respect, compassion, empathy and connection.  Children who are loved can step easily into their true identity as humans, designed to connect and care for each other and our earth.

As you love your family well everyone learns to trust one another.  When people trust each other there is a sacred place for secrets to be revealed and life to be explored.  Hurt and joy become shared experiences, and nothing is unbearable or unsharable.  Everyone can be themselves and offer their best, imperfect and vulnerable, to the world.

As you love your family well your home becomes a haven. There are not enough places in our world where people can expect to be loved, expect to be forgiven, expect to always be welcome.  There are so few places where people listen to one another with empathy and interest instead of judgement.  As you love your family well your home becomes one of the few grace-warmed places in the world, and unexpected people will gather around your table.

Loving your family well means being present with them, close in heart and mind not just sitting on the same couch.  Do the dishes.  Embrace the chaos and the mess.  Choose interruption.  When the sadness and the arguments and the anger swirl around, choose to hope in the future your choice to love can create.  Never lose your imagination for what God is doing in and through and for your family, no matter how broken it can feel at any moment.  

Love your people well.

If you ever start to wonder whether the four walls of your home- and all of the people who need you inside of it- are holding you back from changing the world, do not fear.  Whatever good thing God is inviting you to right now is right in front of you.  The rest will come later.  Love your people well, you do not have to go far to bring happiness to the world.

If you know someone whose love for others brings happiness to the world, cheer them on today.

Love them back.

Anna and the Surprising Jesus

Hey Friends!

I’m so thrilled to have my writing over at SheLoves Magazine for advent.  Have you subscribed to them?  Their advent series has been amazing.

Hop on over to read what Anna taught me about hope on a cold Christmas night…

“My mother hadn’t decorated the house for Christmas since my dad died. Our family heirloom ornaments of crumbling school craft material sat still and musty in the rafters of her garage and no tree or wreath or garland or scent of pine or cinnamon were allowed to fill the home. They would be dangerously redolent of the times our family laughed and teased and huddled under oversized blankets on the couch.

I prayed through my holiday depression, into the fog. “Lord, I need a promise that our family is going to be okay.” I read through the Christmas Story, trying to hear it in my dad’s familiar voice, trying to feel like Christmas. That was the night I met Anna.”

Read the rest of the article HERE.