Praying Aloud and Letters from Camp

I love Ellen Degeneres’ quote: “August is like the Sunday of summer.”  I agree!  I’m going to be traveling the next couple of weeks and taking a little Sabbath so I’ll be re-posting some favorite thoughts from the past. Let’s just call it “Throw Back End-of-August.”  Ok, maybe we won’t call it that because it’s super awkward.  Let me know if you can think of a different title. This post was from August of 2012.

Some (most??) people dread praying aloud as much as they dread getting on a scale the day after Thanksgiving.

When it comes time for closing prayer in your small group do you hyper-ventilate?  Suddenly decide you need to go to the bathroom?  Get a case of laryngitis?

Me?  Like it or not, I’ve been doing it for a long time.  Occupational hazard.

So I’ve gotten at least fairly ok at the “lifting ups” and the “if it’s your wills” and Bibley words like “grace and mercy”.

My out loud prayers are kind of like business letters all proper and punctuated, politically correct and polite.

But my real prayers?  They sound more like David’s prayers of desperation than Mary’s Magnificat.

My “real” prayers sound like:

“Helpmehelpmehelpme!  Oh, look!  There’s a bird!”

Or like a letter from a kid at camp home to his parents:

But here’s what I’m thinking.  As a parent, any communication from my kids is golden.  I don’t care what they say, I just want them talking to me.

And as a parent, I know they’re kids.  They’re not going to talk like me or think like me, or always remember their manners.

Yeah, I want them to know me, to trust me, to obey me, to ask my opinion, but they’re kids, and if they’re talking to me that’s a start!

What do your “real” prayers sound like?  What do you really want to say to God?

The With-God Life

I recorded this conversation in 2002 when Maggie, like Alexander, had had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.

Me, trying to comfort Maggie: Remember sweetie, the Bible says, “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves those crushed in spirit.”

Maggie: Mom, I’ve just had a bad week, I haven’t been trampled by a horse!

Me: Ok, got it.  Ratchet back the hyper-spiritualizing.

Recently I’ve circled back to Psalm 34 where that verse is found.  It’s a “praise-the-Lord-even-if-I’m-dying” Psalm, because God is present.  It’s a good reminder Psalm.  God has used it in my life in some of the lowest times (can you tell from all the scribbling and times I’ve dated it?)photo-149

But on other days I love it that we also have the “crap-life-sucks-and-never-will-get-better-so-let’s-kick-ass” Psalms.

Psalm 35, for example Continue reading

Safe Places and Risky Questions

We’re taking a few days of vacation this week! Since there are so many new readers to the blog, I didn’t think you’d mind a repost from a couple years ago.

“So how and what are YOU doing these days?”  A seemingly simple and innocent question from a friend I hadn’t seen in a few months.

I want to yell, “DOING???  What am I DOING??   I’m Road Runner running straight off the cliff and not realizing it!  I’m Charlie Brown constantly falling flat trying to kick the football!   I’m like the psycho squirrels in my back yard, frantically spinning around, more than a little confused about which way is up!”

Fortunately I catch myself, realizing this might not be an appropriate answer, especially since we’re in the middle of a crowded Starbucks and I’d probably start crying and that would be ugly.

Instead I smile and answer confidently, “Oh everything’s good!  I’m doing a lot of little things, resourcing some organizations here and there… praying about some different options.” Which is true as far as it goes, but certainly gives a different impression than my first answer!

Have you ever felt like everyone else has their life together with a master plan complete with long and short range goals and is right on track doing meaningful work on the highway to success? Continue reading

Cussing for Jesus?

This is a post that seemed to connect with a lot of you a year and a half ago.  There are many new readers so I thought I’d post it again.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

I’m really nervous about posting this.  I’m afraid it may sound judgmental and may make people feel really cranky.  Others may be offended.  And it may not even be a relevant post to those of you reading this.

I read an article in USA Today last year that addresses something I’ve been pondering for awhile.  It talks about the trend in publishing (books, music, plays) to use profanity in the title.  The article says, “What used to be profane is becoming prevalent – and very profitable.”  Turns out that naming something “S— My Dad Says” makes the book sell more.  Go figure.

Not so surprising in secular culture I guess, but what about Christians?  It seems to be the badge of validity with faith bloggers lately too.  There’s a pastor who’s known for using crude language in his sermons.  Is this about shock value?  Authenticity?  Prophetic edge? Or something else? Continue reading

Cussing for Jesus?

This is a post that seemed to connect with a lot of you a year and a half ago.  There are many new readers so I thought I’d post it again.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

I’m really nervous about posting this.  I’m afraid it may sound judgmental and may make people feel really cranky.  Others may be offended.  And it may not even be a relevant post to those of you reading this.

I read an article in USA Today last year that addresses something I’ve been pondering for awhile.  It talks about the trend in publishing (books, music, plays) to use profanity in the title.  The article says, “What used to be profane is becoming prevalent – and very profitable.”  Turns out that naming something “S— My Dad Says” makes the book sell more.  Go figure.

Not so surprising in secular culture I guess, but what about Christians?  It seems to be the badge of validity with faith bloggers lately too.  There’s a pastor who’s known for using crude language in his sermons.  Is this about shock value?  Authenticity?  Prophetic edge? Or something else? Continue reading

5 Things I’m Learning Around my Scarred Table

Tuesday we had a large group of people over for a BBQ in our backyard.  It was truly the perfect Minnesota summer evening.  Dry, 78 degrees, miraculously mosquito-free.  (for a minute I looked around thinking Jesus must be coming back).

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It was a delightful evening of good conversation and laughter, but it’s not like everything was perfect.  John burned most of the brats and 7 (yes 7!) people cancelled within an hour and a half of our start time.

It’s not like everything is always coordinated.  I’ve been known to use a hodgepodge of leftover holiday paper napkins.  Other times we’ve planned for outside but at the last minute rain has blown in or it’s been so hot and muggy we’ve had to frantically un-set and re-set for Plan B, everyone preferring to crowd in our small, but dryer, cooler house.  And I don’t always  usually handle this well.  Often I’m just a stressed out hot mess about change and flexibility.

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What do you do with Jesus on the Corner, part 2

I think we’ve been getting better these days at being honest about the ugliness and selfishness and failures in our lives.  We call it authenticity and we put a high value on it.

In the past we’ve been better at just showing our shiny side and talking a good game.  So now we make a big deal about how much we fall short.  And it’s really good that we know that we’re all in this screw up boat together.

I’m comfortable sharing my failures.  There’s a lot of material there!  But I think we also need to be honest about those tiny moments of grace and small wins.  We need to say “Look!  With God’s help we can do this!”

Wednesday I shared my recent experience driving by a homeless woman and the fears that went through my head as I did.  I didn’t stop.  I want to be honest about the many times I’ve let Jesus down.

But last winter there was a different Jesus on the corner.  I was in Florida and it was early morning.  I was riding my bike to Starbucks as the sun came up pink over the palms and the boats moored in the harbor.

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3 Sure-fire Ways to Get the Job

My wonderful, wise husband graciously agreed to write another guest post, so today is a bit of a departure from Fearless Friday.  The purpose of this blog is to help us pay attention to the relationships, experiences and practices God uses to form us.  Certainly, hunting for a job can be one of those experiences.  So, here are some thoughts from John…

I’m  reading Proverbs these days, so my spiritual growth is more ‘out in the real world’ than usual.  For instance, I’m in the midst of interviewing/finding the right fit for 3 positions.  One thing that’s struck me is, “Boy, I wish I knew this back when I was trying to get a job”. As we talk and pray, drilling beneath the “right character, right skills, right chemistry” mantra that many of us use as a template, it’s so hard for people on either side of the interview table to “get it right”.  Since I’m sure many of you will be looking for different work in the near future (hopefully not sooner than you think!), here are some hard-earned lessons to navigate the seas of vocation.  Just three to start:

NOT THE RESUME, the Passion… we can pretty quickly discern skill-sets and experience, but these days I want to know ‘What makes your heart sing’?  Personal stories offer insight when they get beyond “I supervised 37,000 left-handed redheads.” I lean forward when I hear, “I found myself crying when the team broke up”, or a story of how you were used to touch one old person’s life, and THAT’S why you want this opportunity.  Don’t gush, but show some heart.

NOT THE SUCCESSES, the Learnings:  so tired of people who’s “weakness” is that they work too hard, or are never satisfied.  I want to hire someone who says, “I was embarrassed to find out that they ALL thought I talked too much; boy, did that change me”, or “I felt awful when we had to let this person go, because I never gave them a hint that they were hurting themselves.”  The lessons from our mistakes convey both self- awareness and humility, indispensable to a team.  Sure, you’ll talk about your strengths, but transparency shows you can grow!

NOT THE ANSWERS, the Questions: I want people who care enough about this job that they’ve done some homework, but I want to learn about them from their questions… so you better have some!  “What’s one key emotional attribute you look for on your team, assuming we can all do the job?”  “What’ve been the toughest things for people in this area/department/job to deal with recently?”  Recently, someone asked me, “You seem awfully level-headed; how will I know I’m in trouble if you’re not saying something directly?”  Our questions demonstrate the values we’ll bring through the door.

In a tough job market, it’ SO counterintuitive to say, but you’re far better off finding out what they REALLY want, rather than doing or saying anything to get the job.  We live in a world that cries out for both authenticity and impressiveness, so offer the best ‘you’ rather than a counterfeit.  The other day I hung up twice after a phone interview and said, “I don’t know if we can get this person, but THAT’S what I’m talking about!”  A 51-year old woman, and then a 32 year-old man, I’d be honored to work with either… because I feel I know their heart, and not just their resume.

Or as Proverbs 10:9 explains, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out”.

The Temptation of Cool

This week we’re in Atlanta for the Catalyst Conference.

For the uninitiated, this is the church world equivalent of the cool kids’ table in Junior high.  The one with the vibe that everyone wants.

Catalyst is for the young and hip – the guys who wear the rumpled uniform of untucked plaid flannel shirts or V-neck t’s, super skinny jeans and tiny black Rob Bell glasses.

They use product that makes their hair spiky or shave their heads if there’s not enough “there” there to mousse.  You used to see a lot soul patch and piercings going on, but not so much lately.

People like to write about Catalyst.  Tweet about it. It’s a good place to see and be seen.

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My Most Important Question

I’ve never been comfortable with questions, and gray, and lack of resolution.

Questions scared me.  Because, well…what if God, you know…wasn’t big enough?

I’m not by nature a doubter, but life has led me through gray, led me through “no answers”, through pound-on-the-floor dark frustration, and although I may have faltered, God hasn’t.

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