Birthdays, Feeling the Awesomeness, and a Spiritual Practice

A little re-post from a couple years ago…Have a happy Monday and remember you’re awesome! (even without a hat)

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Here’s an email one of our daughters sent to friends recently, asking them to save October 15th.  Why that day?   Here’s what she wrote:

“Because it’s magical.  Because it’s the day of my birth!  And I demand that you all celebrate with me.  I don’t have an exact plan yet, but you can assume that it will involve you all, celebratory beverages, and you all telling me how glad you are that I was born.

I love it!  Now of course she was writing that tongue in cheek.  She’s not at all arrogant, but unlike most of us, she does have a pretty healthy self-image. 

I, on the other hand, am more like the rest of the world, and deal with insecurity in varying degrees depending on how many cookies I’ve eaten, a song I heard on the radio, and the barometric pressure that day.

I love Mark Batterson’s thought: “Our focus determines our reality.”

Am I focusing on ME and how I stack up compared to everyone else?  Or am I focusing on GOD and the truth that I am a beloved child of His and He delights in me? Continue reading

2 Questions, 2 Truths

When you I write a blog post I rarely never have the time to find all the scrumptious words or present my offering with the “voila!” of someone serving a gourmet feast at Thanksgiving.

But this morning, more than most, I feel like I’m serving up “bare naked chicken” – just a couple of things I’ve been thinking about that seem to go together.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a sermon podcast by Craig Groeschel and honestly I can’t remember the point of the sermon because as an aside (not having to do with the message at all), he said his counselor had asked him two questions.

Those two questions are what my mind keeps returning to.  Here’s what they are: Continue reading

Is there Room in Your Chariot?

This past summer at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit I had the opportunity to live blog for Engage Churches, a part of the Willow Creek Association.  I was blown away listening to the teaching of Chris Brown, a pastor at North Coast Church in California.  Here’s some of what I wrote that day…

This afternoon, Chris Brown (not that Chris Brown, a different Chris Brown) started with the story of a man approaching a campfire.  Creeping forward, and then walking back into the shadows while others by the campfire gossip about his failed leadership around the issue of a certain giant named Goliath.

The man is King Saul.  For over a month Saul has been called out and he knows he doesn’t have what it takes.  His ministry is  paralyzed.  His leadership is paralyzed.  He’s a leader in trouble who is bailed out by a kid named David.

And then it goes out on Twitter (as it were).  1 Sam. 18:5-9 “Saul has killed his thousands.  David his ten thousands.”

Huh??  Big gasp.  How is Saul going to react?

“From that time on, Saul kept a jealous eye on David.”

Saul didn’t have room in his chariot for David, the young twerp who bested him.

Leaders struggle with jealousy and comparison.  Pride and ego.  It’s in the Bible.  A lot. Continue reading

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Dear Comparison,

I’ve decided it’s time.  I’m breaking up with you.

No, it’s not me, it’s you.

And no, we can’t still be friends.

You seduced me by whispering sweet nothings in my ear about “better than”.  You flattered me with “friends”, “followers” or awards, “likes”, “favorites”…

But you’re a two-faced lover and now I see the real you.  Those sweet whispers easily morph into ugly taunts of “not as _____ as”.  Subtle accusations that lead to envy and discouragement and an unhealthy soul. Continue reading

What I Learned About Being “Fearless” in 2013

The week between Christmas and New Year has always been a good time for reflection. So I’ve been thinking about my “One Word” for 2013 – Fearless.

Not that I saw myself as fearless, but I believed God wanted to grow me in that direction.  It didn’t feel like it was “mine”.  It was an aspirational word.  Kind of like “thin” will be an aspirational word my whole life.

There was the acknowledgement that “Fear not.” is the most common command in the Bible and that other command, “Follow me.” which usually involves risk and the F word, at least in my life.

Living with this “One Word” in 2013 helped me to pay attention.  Henry James, a novelist, writes “Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost.” This was my goal.

Not that it’s been a smooth ride.  I had a panic attack for the first time in my life.  And that’s not “me”.  At least that’s how my pride responds.

But I also took risks, and went public with a big goal that I felt was beyond my ability.

I think the biggest “fearless” lesson I learned came while I was running. And running.  And, you know… trying not to die. Continue reading

You’ll Always be Beaten by a House and Other Lessons Learned from a Race

Daughter Katy and I crossed the finish line of the half-marathon Saturday, arm in arm.

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Words can’t express how grateful I am for so many of you who prayed and gave money for clean water, cheered, encouraged, gave advice regarding injuries, gave high fives, sent texts, and were incredibly patient with me through training.  For Katy who ran alongside me, and John who rode alongside me, I’m sure there will be special jewels in their crowns.

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Many people aren’t runners and get irritated with hearing about running.  I totally get it.  But I want this experience to honor God, and I think part of that is naming what He has taught me that may apply to your life too.  So here are three things I’m thinking about… Continue reading

Thanking God You’re Not Miley Cyrus

The last couple weeks I’ve felt pretty good. So much “better than.”  Maybe you have too.

I’m in Washington D.C. this week where everyone is angry with Congress and thankful they’re not one of “them”.

In the past few weeks I’ve also thought, “Boy I’m glad I’m not Miley Cyrus!  Or basically any of the Kardashians.  Or Honey Boo Boo’s mom.  Or Anthony Wiener.”

Each of them has had their mistakes broadcast, ridiculed, autopsied.  Their intellect, integrity, and wisdom were brought into question.

My response?  “Phew!  Glad I dodged those bullets!”

“Can’t BELIEVE they were so stupid, evil, clueless, out-of-control…whatever…bless their heart.” (I add that last part cuz I’m a Christian don’tcha know) Continue reading

The One that Jesus Loves (More than Me)

Confession:  Every once in awhile (read: way too often), I look at ______, or _______, or _______  and I compare myself and come up short and decide I’m going to throw in the towel.

No, nothing drastic, but just I’m just going to quit “showing up”.

Jesus clearly has gifted “them” more, is using “them” more powerfully, loves “them” more.

I decide, yep, I’m going to give up writing or parenting, or setting goals, or mentoring or exercising or speaking or being available, or risking…

This has prompted me to question, “What is it that inhibits and what is it that inspires us to live our unique story?”

What motivates you to become a better version of yourself?  To celebrate the work God wants to do uniquely through you?

And conversely, What is destructive to your true self – the self that finds meaning in being a beloved child of God?

This is not a new struggle and I know I’m not alone. Can I get an “Amen!”?

As I’ve been talking with God about this yelling “Lord help me figure this out! Now!”  He brought to mind this little exchange in John 21 (remember John is writing):

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them…When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”  Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

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You know how John has that irritating way of referring to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved”?  I wonder how that made Peter feel.  Was he tempted to buy into the lie that John was the ONE (the only one) Jesus loved?  More than anyone else?  Was he tempted to compare and be blinded to the ways that Jesus loved him and wanted to use his unique gifts, temperament and experience?

Jesus basically says, “Quit looking at his his life, his “likes”, invitations, followers, hits, gifts, retweets, his family, his successes or failures and look at Me.

Because I have a story I want to write through you that I can’t write through him.”

I believe Jesus says that to us too.

And so we can say: “I’m the one that Jesus loves.  And so is he.  Or she.

God has given me a unique voice and a valuable story.

And God has given them a different voice and different valuable story.”

You have gifts and relationships and experiences and a platform that I don’t have.  That no one else has in the exact same combination.

I pray you’ll move into this Monday celebrating that you’re the one Jesus loves and is using in a way that He can use no one else.

What’s one thing you can celebrate about your unique voice today?

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.”

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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.

Three Ideas for Dealing with Mice and Dirty Little Secrets

I see myself as a pretty darn adventurous person.  I love a challenge.  I’ll go anywhere in the world and I’m open to eating bugs.  Daughter Maggie and I were finalists to compete in the Amazing Race last year.  And I want my second career to be as a spy, for which I’ve already prepared by spending hours at the Spy Museum in D.C. and doing a simulation bomb location exercise.  Learning to hot wire a car is on my bucket list.  I’m just sayin’…I think I’ve got some game.

But, there are two things I don’t do.

Snakes and mice.

I’d jump out of an airplane if I had to, but look at, much less empty, a mouse trap?  No way.  Fortunately this has not been an issue as we have not had mice to deal with.  Until we got home from vacation this week and discovered evidence of one in a kitchen drawer.  Nowhere else (and believe me I went over the house with a magnifying glass, inspecting any tiny piece of lint to make sure it wasn’t a mouse dropping).

Anyway, we set out multiple traps in the kitchen around and in said drawer.  The next morning I left John a bazillion notes reminding him to check and deal with any corpse that might have appeared and I carefully skirted around the kitchen with my eyes averted from anything close to the killing field.

It’s not like I wasn’t vaguely aware there might possibly be carnage.  I just didn’t want to face it.  To deal with the ugliness.

Recently I referred to a message I had listened to about comparison that Andy Stanley preached and I was forced to face a mouse corpse.  He talked about the land of “er” and “est” where when we compare and don’t measure up we either hate the other person or hate ourselves.  Near the end, he asked a question :

Is there anyone you would secretly be glad to see fail?

It totally rocked me because immediately two people from different parts of my life, who I haven’t thought about in awhile came to mind!  No, no one reading this (honest).  And before you get sidetracked and all judgmental, ask yourself that question.

It freaked me out. “Why?” I asked myself.  “Is this born out of comparison?  Competition?  Insecurity?” And “What do I do with this? (Besides confess it and ask God to change my heart).  It was a very ugly mouse corpse I couldn’t avert my eyes from.

The first step for us in catching the mice was facing the evidence.  Acknowledging they were there.  I was ticked at Andy for asking the question that made me even admit the death in me, but once I realized the truth I couldn’t just leave a drawer full of “mouse poop.”

The second step has been figuring out how it got in.  For my “mouse” I’ve been asking the questions above and have realized they definitely squeezed in through the door of pride and comparison, but it’s also complicated by the pain that comes when someone succeeds at your expense or hurts you personally while getting what they want.  Perhaps this mouse snuck in in the moments when I wasn’t vigilant about living out of the security of God’s lavish love and delight in me…confidence in His win/win power to bring about good no matter what.

The third step has been killing the mice and, most importantly getting rid of the dead corpses.  I’m fine with steps one and two, but this one….?  Could I please just jump out of an airplane?  

Instead I picture both of the people who came to mind.  This morning I read, “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge.  I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”  I picture the three of us, together, huddled beneath God’s wings.  His beloved children, all three of us dependent…taking refuge in His mercy.  I am truly moved by this image as I sit with it.  It helps me.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Is there anyone you would secretly be glad to see fail?                                            Are there ways that have been helpful to you in facing and dealing with the mouse corpses in your life?