5 Questions About…Risk

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Sharon is a dear friend who both inspires and intimidates me with her amazingness.  She has guest-posted here before.  I’m so thankful that in the midst of a busy, stressful time, she was willing to share some more of what she’s learning.  Here’s the next in our 5 Questions About…series.

1. Recently you took what must have felt like a huge risk. Can you tell us about it?

Eight months ago, I resigned from a job I had loved and made the leap to running my own business. This happened after an extended season of prayer and discernment, so by the time I made the change, I felt certain it was the right thing to do.

Yes, there were practical risks involved: leaving a certain income, benefits, 401K; losing the familiarity of my office and team. And as a single person, I didn’t have a safety net of a second income, back-up insurance, or a support person to pick up slack in other areas of life. But I was also very clear about why I was making the change: 1) to be faithful to what I understood God was putting in my hands; 2) to learn and grow through a new challenge.

So when I framed it that way, I realized that even if my business failed (and I had to move into my parents’ basement), I would experience God in deeper ways and learn things I wouldn’t otherwise. Continue reading

One Thing I Want to Know When Life is Hard

It’s summertime, and if you’re anything like me you’re drinking deeply from the cup o’ awesome.  The smoky smell of barbecue and friends gathered on the patio, an icy drink after a sweaty bike ride, boating on the lake as the sun sets (EVERY lake in Minnesota is THE lake), the smell of fresh cut grass, and kids running through the sprinkler… This is my neighborhood.  This is my summer.IMG_2316IMG_4309

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But this Norman Rockwell and Mayberry picture exists in stark contrast to the conversations I’ve been part of the past few weeks.  Conversations permeated by the aroma of despair and disappointment, a thirst for redemption and healing in hard situations where spouses aren’t showing up, and parents grieve over the choices their kids are making and people can be just plain mean.  And we want to fix it all, using our plans, our timeline with a little bit of God sprinkled on top.

Isn’t that THE story of all of us, starting way back with Adam and Eve?  We want to be God.  Period.  We want control, but we’re not capable. And so God brings us to the end of ourselves time after time  And we once again bow down, draw close, seek Him…and submit to a plan better than ours – a plan that we may not see clearly this side of heaven.

In all of these conversations, hearing so much heaviness, I’ve been asking myself, if not to fix, what IS our role in community?

One small inkling from the Holy spirit came from an unlikely place.  We decided to host a backyard bbq for our neighborhood.  DSC00423Now, as someone who hosts a lot of gatherings in her home, let me tell you, these things are always messy and never turn out the way you plan (much like life).

It rains, or people don’t rsvp and then show up, or come at the wrong time, or you remember about their peanut-gluten-dairy-banana allergy as they walk in the door.  You can’t “fix” it, you just have to show up and welcome whatever comes. Continue reading

Learning From Those Who are Dying and Those Who Are Living

On Tuesday some dear friends welcomed their first baby, Nel.  New life, greeted with great joy.IMG_5900

This morning, Wednesday, we got word that a 93 year old friend had entered the kingdom of heaven overnight.  He had a mind as sharp as our polar vortex wind, but the body of a helpless infant.  The last time we visited him he had been in hospice at home for over a month and when we saw him he felt like he was just. done.  He was ready to greet death with great joy.

Upon Dallas Willard’s death, John Ortberg wrote of him:

“He (Dallas) said that a person is a series of conscious experiences, and that for the one who trusts and follows Jesus, death itself has no power to interrupt this life, for Jesus said that the one who trusts in him will not taste death.  Dallas died on May 8, 2013. I’m not sure if anyone has told him yet.” Continue reading

When a “Good” Fight Goes “Bad”

The other day I wrote about “good” fights.  The times when somehow, against all odds, and all our emotion, and in spite of our bent towards holding grudges, with God’s help, we address conflict and come out on the other side…Maybe more whole.  More compassionate.  With a better understanding of grace.  With a little clearer picture of redemption.

I outlined some steps that have been helpful to me, but…”1,2,3 steps” are always dangerous.  I really wish we lived in a “1,2,3 voila!” world, but we don’t.

What about when a “good fight” goes bad?  

Many years ago when I was first learning about what Jesus would ask of me regarding conflict I had a situation with a neighbor friend involving our kids.  I really, truly felt I had gone through each of the steps to handle our disagreement in a healthy way.

I prayed like crazy!  I examined my heart and thought I owned my part!  I was calm for Pete’s sake!!    I was warmly assertive and humble, darn it!

We sat at my kitchen table and you know how she responded? Continue reading

How to Get out of the Downward Death Spiral of Doom

Note:  Last week I blogged for Engage at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit (you can see all posts here).  Maybe my favorite speaker at the Summit was Henry Cloud.


Throughout the year I have the privilege of facilitating some of the online courses through LIFT (Leadership Institute for Transformation) that’s part of Engage.

Let’s be clear… I just facilitate discussions where participants interact with material presented.  But the teachers?? Holy Buckets!  They are world class!   LIFT has gathered teaching from the best communicators around the country and Henry Cloud is one of them.  I love his LIFT class, Leading for Results which is based on his book, Integrity.  He is just so darn practical!

Friday afternoon at the Leadership Summit, Henry walked on stage with his signature greeting,  “Hey guys!”

He went on to say why he likes leaders (smart move with this audience!).

He said, “Leaders don’t blame.  They take stewardship of what God has given them.  Leaders do hard things.”

But the hardest thing a leader does is to lead him or herself.

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Fear and Control


“Show me a controlling person and I’ll show you a person who is secretly afraid.” Donald Miller

What do you think?  Is that all of us?

Who doesn’t want to be in control?  If pressed, most of us are sure we have a pretty good plan for the universe, right?

I see this most clearly in my relationship with my adult daughters.  When you’re the parent of little kids you exert control for their safety and training.

But, dang if they don’t grow up and start actually having their own opinions and making their own BIG life choices!  Seemingly all of a sudden you’re totally out of control and, (Gasp!), what if their choices reflect badly on you?  Or make your life more difficult?  Or take them down a path you know will be painful?

I find my fists clenched, feel a vague undercurrent of anxiety, and my mind turns to ways to manipulate coerce  gently offer wise counsel.

When we feel that emotion of fear…anxiety…sadness…maybe we need to ask ourselves some questions.

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On Slaying Dragons and Whistling

It’s Fearless Friday and one of my favorite people in the world graciously agreed to guest post!  I know you’ll be blessed by these thoughts from my talented friend Sharon Sampson.  She’s the Director of Communications at our church (Christ Presbyterian Church, Edina) and this year has started her own consulting business called Open Book Communications 

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There’s an old Stephen Sondheim song I like called “Anyone Can Whistle” because it points to how fear tends to work its way into my life. In the song, a seemingly strong, capable woman sings this:

“Anyone can whistle,

That’s what they say — easy.

Anyone can whistle

Any old day — easy.

It’s all so simple:

Relax, let go, let fly.

So someone tell me why

Can’t I?”

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When You’re Afraid God Won’t Show Up on Fearless Friday

It’s Fearless Friday which made me think of this post from last summer that I’ve edited for today…

What if God just doesn’t “show up”? Ever have that fear?

Me too.

I think our daughters Katy and Maggie may have felt that way last weekend also.

They are basically being evicted from their apartment.  No one understands exactly why (especially since they’re model tenants and the ONLY tenants in a 4-plex row house), but Maggie’s theory is that the owner wants to convert it to a meth lab.

There have been two “perfect” apartments that have come on the market this past week, but this is D.C. where there are approximately 4,569 type-A lawyers and lobbyists kicking, clawing and back-biting their way through the quaint 19th century row house front doors, and closing a deal is a long-shot for two “Minnesota-nice” girls

However, as consummate Crosby competitors, the girls have scoured Craigslist, ready to spring into action.  They’ve jumped through every hoop, filling out long applications, giving financial records and references, showing up early for the open houses, going through an interview in one case, and enlisting a lot of people to pray.

No go.  And no reason why.  And we were praying for Pete’s sake!

After their loss this weekend, the girls have visions of being modern day Israelites wandering in the wilderness, wondering if they’ll ever close in on the promised land.

Big deal you say?  The Jews and the Palestinians are still looking for a home while people pray.  Yeah.  I know.

No real comparison.  But as I’ve walked in the sadness and frustration with Katy and Maggie, praying from afar, my temptation has been to think, “What if God doesn’t DO something?  What if He doesn’t ‘show up’?”

In situations like this I tend to:

1.  FRANTICALLY DO SOMETHING MYSELF (desperate)!   Sign a petition.  Tell K&M to bake cookies in order to bribe a prospective landlord. Get a lawyer involved.  Write a letter to SOMEONE IMPORTANT (like President Obama) asking him to intervene.  Anything!

2.  Spiritualize.  This is not our “home”.  Our true home is in heaven and we’re just pilgrims passing through.  “In this world you’ll experience trouble…” Blah, blah, blah.  Maybe true, but not always helpful.

3. Let go (when I start settling down).  Again.  And pray “Abba Father, I’m doing what I can do, but I need You to do what only You can do.  I really don’t understand this, but I’m not You and I trust You have a better plan…a plan to form something in them, or in me, or in all of us through this experience, or provide something better, or draw us to Yourself.”

4.  And eventually, to hold on.  Hold on to the same God who took care of Hagar when Sarai kicked her out – “the God who sees me”.

The same God who took care of Elijah on the run.  The God who seems much like a gentle mother, giving his toddler a snack and a nap.  

The “but God” God.*

There was a flood, but God remembered Noah and sent a breeze.

There was injustice, but God used it for good in the life of Joseph and the Israelites.

Jesus was crucified for our sins, but God raised Him from the dead.

This may sound similar to spiritualizing, but it’s not.  Because when I hold on to the character of God I can’t clutch my what if’s.

The size of my God puts the size of my problem in perspective.

What helps you when you when you’re afraid God won’t “show up”?


*Thanks to Mark Batterson for this reminder!

Waiting at Gate C6, C9, E10, H5…

I’ve spent a lot of time in airports this past week.  And this was not a happy thing.

It’s not like I was going someplace exotic like Bora Bora, or ran into Mumford and Sons on their way to the Grammys.

With the mega snowstorm that hit plus, normal mechanical stuff, It was just a matter of multiple delayed flights where each update means a gate change and a later departure.

And so it meant sitting.

And waiting.  Hours and hours of waiting.

Years ago John and I heard a motivational speaker who, in these situations used the refrain “You can cancel my flight, but you can’t cancel my day!” 

That sounds so…positive!  So cheery.  So empowering. 

But it’s just an annoying quote when your life is about being productive and on the go and you’re sitting in an airport, missing the event you’re scheduled for, or waiting to get home and your husband texts that line to you.  Are you with me?

When your plans are upended and you feel upended like Charlie Brown, once more having the football snatched away just as he was kicking, and you’re out of control, how do you control what you can – your attitude?

I’d like to be super spiritual and tell you all the Scripture that came to mind, but here’s how it went.

First I tried the practice of thanksgiving.  I was very thankful they aborted the first take off of one of my flights half-way down the runway, throwing on the brakes when an emergency light came on.  Safety is always good in my book.

And I was thankful for the cute little girl in the terminal with the Tinkerbell peeking out of her backpack.  And then I was pretty much done with thankfulness (with apologies to Anne Voskamp :)).  Still unproductive and waiting…

Next I tried praying while unclenching my hands, letting go of my need for power and control.  Very unproductive and still waiting (but it felt like the right thing to do)

Then, I tried to see Jesus.  To be present and aware of passengers around me who I might encourage. But every head was down, every eye seemed to be glued to Iphones while mine was dead (This was not on my “things I’m thankful for” list!).

Lastly I tried to smile.  I had just heard about a new study out that shows that smiling affects your attitude, reduces stress, and increases heart health.  Sounded good to me.

I tried, but I felt kind of like a Stepford Wife, plastic and robotic.  And I think people wondered if I was a little “off” shall we say.  I was unproductive, still waiting, and my mouth muscles hurt.

In the end I bought a Chik-fil-A sandwich and a People magazine.


I remember hearing someone say once that God wants to give us a “snow day” every week with Sabbath Why do we resist?  Why do we seem so addicted to “doing”… to being recognized for what we accomplish?  Is it born out of a fear that being God’s beloved child isn’t enough?

Maybe, we need to relax and remember God’s ok with unproductive.  Having Chik-fil-A and a little Sabbath at Gate C6 was not a bad thing.

How do you handle interruptions to your plans and out-of-controledness?

Pregnant, part 2

This week I’m thinking about Mary and three spiritual practices that may help us prepare for Christmas.  You can read the first in the series here if you want.


As I write this I’m in a lovely setting, looking out over our snowy Minnesota – an outward picture of peace and calm that is definitely not what I’m feeling inside.  In my fingers and toes and stomach is… fear – that indefinable tingly, insufficient, I can’t get it done emotion.  I need to do, to create, to produce and I don’t have it in me.  I’m not enough.

Is that feeling more common at Christmas than at other times of the year?

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