Brave Knights, and a Trustworthy King (for young parents)

Not infrequently, husband John and I will be part of conversations with our daughters like the following one.  It’s about Maggie’s summer internship in Northern Uganda where the Lord’s Resistance Army has forced children to be soldiers.  She’ll be working with those who have been brutalized but have escaped…
photo-10

photo-9

The other day after he read this husband John asked me (rhetorically), “How does this keep HAPPENING??!”

Others also ask us this too (although it sounds more like: “How did you raise your daughters?”)  The primary answer is: “With a LOT of mistakes and loads of God’s GRACE.”

Both our daughters, and we, will continue to mess up as we try to follow Jesus, but we also trust that God will pick us up when we stumble,  Here’s what we tried to teach them as they were growing up… 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

One Thing it Takes to Overcome Fear

I watched this video a week or so ago and thought, “What if…?”

What if Christopher Maloney didn’t have his mom cheering for him?

What if he hadn’t had one person who believed in him?

What if he had let the voices of his detractors drown out the one voice that said, “You are talented.  You’ve got this.”?

We all need a champion, a cheerleader, an encourager in our corner.  Not someone to give us false hope or shield us from the truth, but someone who sees the gifts we have to offer the world and wants the world to have the joy of receiving them.

Who believes in you?  Make sure to thank them.  Who are you championing?  Make sure they know it.

Tucking in Courage

“She tucked belief right into me.”

A few years ago I read this lovely line written by Ann Voskamp who was talking about a grandmother who called out gifts in her that she was afraid to believe.

In my life, belief has been a synonym for courage.  Like a toddler at night, with Mama tucking covers tight, I’ve had many snug courage right into me and our family.

When our youngest daughter, Maggie, graduated from college she accepted an internship with the International Justice Mission.  She prepared to leave home and live in Guatemala City for a year.

The transition between college and “the real world” is a scary one.  Like jumping off a cliff and hoping you hit the water and remember how to swim.  A time of hard decisions and what-if-I-don’t-make-it fears.

IMG_0779

To launch Maggie into this new season, we invited a group of women for brunch.  Women who had loved her, and prayed for her, and poured into her for many years.

I asked each of them to bring a word for Maggie, accompanied by a blessing, a prayer, encouragement, or advice. Continue reading

Resource Christmas in August

I’m honored to be live blogging this week at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit for Engage International which is part of the Willow Creek Association.   I’ve also been facilitating on line classes for the WCA called LIFT (Leadership Institute For Transformation).  I’d encourage you to check out all the resources Engage and the WCA provide here!

Here’s the beginning of my post for the first session of the Summit…

Every year my husband John and I would say the best two weeks of our summer are the ones in August when we bring a large group of staff and lay leaders from our church to the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, and afterwards go on a staff family retreat in northern Minnesota.

We show up expectant, thinking, “What will God do this time?”

And every year after Bill Hybels’ opening talk, without fail, John says, “Well, I can go home now!”  He’s filled up and recharged, but is always glad we stay around for the “B team”. 🙂

Bill’s talk is always a combination jolt of Red Bull, and a Brave Heart “Get off your butt” rallying cry.

Which is great if you’re a senior leader like my husband.  But I also try to listen through the filter of the young mom, and the staff administrator, and the librarian, and the retired radiologist elder we’ve brought with us.  You know, ordinary folks with ordinary lives who are definitely leaders of their family, or PTA, or church committee, or office staff, but may think “Is this really for me?.”

You can read the rest here!

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 

Photo 50

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?”

Continue reading

At the Top of God’s “Do Not” List

It’s Fearless Friday!

Our family is one of list-makers.  We love them.  To-do lists of course, but also pro/con lists, goal lists, grocery lists…

And I’m thinking a “Do not fear” list would be a good one.

The list of verses in the Bible that have the phrase, “Do not fear…” is a long one. The longest in fact.

But so what?

The important part is what comes next.  Why in the world should we just obey that command willy nilly?

God is with you.

God is with you.

God is with you!

But who is the God who is with us?

A.W. Tozer writes,
“What comes to mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.”

Sprinkles and Naming Stuff

It’s Fearless Friday!  I hope you’ll join us on our One Word adventure this year.

Recently I was with two different friends, at different times, in different places who, with hesitation and eyes cast down, admitted their dreams to me.

You know,the big dreams of what they’d really like to do and be. They were afraid to say them out loud.  Afraid they’d seem too…big.  Too crazy.

But they were brave and told the truth.  And it made me think of this video I saw recently.

I watch this and I think, aren’t we all just like this little guy with evidence smeared all over, afraid of admitting to God what He already knows?

Afraid to name either the smelly garbage or the shiny brilliant hopes that seem crazy, but that are as clear to Him as the sprinkles on our face.

What is it that you’re afraid to name?

It’s not like God doesn’t know, but still He graciously asks us the same the questions He’s been asking for centuries.

“What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51)

“Why are you here?” (1 Kings 19:9)

And maybe most importantly, “Why are you so afraid?” (Mark 4:40)

You know what terrible thing happened when my friends shared what was in their hearts with me?

Absolutely nothing.  They didn’t implode and disintegrate.  Bob Costas didn’t come on T.V. and broadcast the ridiculous news that two idiots had said some wacko stuff.

When they told me I was delighted!  I was excited for them and I wanted to enter in and roll up my sleeves and help.  And with my response, there was, on their faces this look of relief…and almost wonder that they had named this big thing and were still there and it was ok and not so scary after all.

Could it be that even though God sees all of our sprinkles – the evidence of every hope and fear, every dream and sin and wound – He invites us with His questions to come to Him and name it all so that we see that it’s not so powerful or scary after all.

And then He brushes the sprinkles off our face and says, “Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to it!”

And so begins His work of refining and redeeming, equipping, and guiding.

What is something you’ve been afraid to talk to God about – a crazy dream, a deep wound, a secret sin, a profound desire – and what’s happened when you’ve named it with Him?

OneWord2013_Fearless150

How to Make the Top 10 List

I read another list last week.  Twenty Women Leaders Under 40 You should Know.

There are so many of these lists it’s hard to keep them straight.  But in case you’re wondering, I’m not on this list and you probably aren’t either.  Especially if you’re a guy.

I’m not under 40.  I don’t speak to thousands of people.  I’m not beautiful or edgy or cool or a dynamic leader.  I don’t have hordes of “followers”.  I don’t belong on the list.  I had no remote expectation or even awareness that there WAS a list til I stumbled across it.  But still…I felt less than when I read it.  Can you relate?

There are some great women on that list!  Some of them I consider to be friends and I’m thrilled that they are being affirmed, but still…after I felt “small” in comparison, I got angry.  I got angry and I considered titling this post, “Lists are from the Devil”.  But then I thought that was a tad dramatic and would make me sound like one of those crazy “fundies”.  Honestly though, I think that title would be pretty accurate.

What do lists like this accomplish?  Twenty women feel special and important and the millions of people not on THE LIST who are making small courageous, sacrificial choices, sometimes just “showing up” each day, are tempted to believe the lie that Satan loves to whisper.

YOU know the whisper: “They matter, but you don’t.”

So, I’m publishing my own list.  My list is made up of the 7 billion people in the world who will never be on a list that is Tweeted about or written up in a newspaper or magazine.  My list is The Top 7 Billion People You Should Know About.

My list includes Betsy who has MS, but painfully crawls out of bed each day with the help of a caregiver and prays for others in our church.

And Eric who is 12 and moved here from another country, with English as his 4th language, trying to ignore the taunts of other adolescent boys as he struggles to learn to read.

Rhonda is on my list.  A young woman who moved to Indonesia 20 years ago with her husband and eventually, kids, living sacrificially to serve the Muslim people with the love of Jesus.

And Loveness, Givison, Michael, and Sakina, our World Vision sponsored children in remote parts of the world for whom each day is a mountain of poverty to climb.

There’s Christopher too.  A young man with a good heart who’s stumbling through life, grasping, searching for God though he doesn’t know it.

And you.  You are on my list because wherever you are in the world you need to know you matter.

You may have wounds that no one knows about and challenges that no one sees and you’ll make brave choices and small sacrifices today. You’ll make mistakes too and you’ll fall down and stub your toe but you’ll get back up and keep going.

Yes, keep going.

Bottom line?  I don’t think God is a god of lists (at least not this kind).  Lists seem to be too much like assigning “places of honor at the table”…not exactly a kingdom deal.  So it really it’s no biggie that you’re on “my” list, but maybe the this will make a difference…

“You have searched me, Lord, and you Know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you Lord, know it completely.  You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” Ps. 139:1-5.

If God has a list, you’re on it.  How do you make it?  Just breathe.  And know that you matter.  You are loved.

Never. Under. Estimate my Jesus.

Every Monday evening from 5:00-6:00 I have what is both the most discouraging and most powerful hour of my week.

Three years ago I started tutoring a 9 year old girl named Erica who moved here from Togo, west Africa with her twin brother Eric, and her older brother Sylvanus.  Erica and Sylvanus have made the transition to a new city, a new culture, a 5th (yes, 5th!) language, and are catching up academically in a new school.  Amazing.  Courageous.  Inspiring.

Eric is just as courageous, but he is now a 12-year old boy who has fallen through the cracks of the system…been passed along because that’s convenient…been teased by his peers when he’s trying to catch up by doing 3rd grade level work as a 6th grader.

So now I tutor Eric, sitting in an old inner city church that looks like it’s out of The Bells of St. Mary’s.  We sit at a huge table with about 10 other loud, chaotic, disruptive kids who are supposed to be doing their homework, but would like nothing better than to foment a Middle School revolution with Eric as a compatriot.

Every week, for the first 15 minutes, the revolutionaries seem to be winning.  Eric has no use for me.  He grumbles.  He makes excuses. He’s too cool.  It’s too hard to work when others are playing.  I wonder why I make the effort to fight the traffic and the snow and the dark to drive into this neighborhood for a kid who doesn’t care.

And then, every week, when I’m about to give up, in an instant, the tide of the battle turns and Eric gives in and starts reading to me or doing his times tables.

Now here’s the thing that floors me.  None of the chaos around us stops.  All the other kids are loud and distracting…arguing, throwing things, flirting…But once Eric is engaged, nothing (and I mean nothing) will deter him from his concentration.

Yesterday he chose an Amelia Bedelia book and as he’s reading and pencils are flying through the air around us and boys are fighting all around us I’m thinking “This 12-year-old kid is going to be bored with this book!  He’s gonna give up any minute.  I would!”  But no.  Not only does he keep reading for 40 minutes, he asks questions, and follows my directions to write a summary for his teacher.

At the end of our time, everyone has left to go downstairs to dinner.  Eric and I are  alone at the big table and it is finally quiet.  I look deep into his beautiful African brown eyes and say, “Eric, you are amazing.  You have the most remarkable ability to focus and remember what you’ve read.  You have worked so hard.  I am proud of you and you should be proud of yourself.”

His eyes don’t leave mine.  He doesn’t look away.

Now Eric is a 12 year old boy remember, so I don’t expect to get much of a response, but he looks back at me with the unmistakable expression of a starving kid being given a morsel of hope.  

And I think, “How can I not come back next week?”

When I get to my car the tears come as I think this is just one hour out of Eric’s whole week.  One small statement of affirmation in a sea of taunting and apathy.  It’s not enough.  It’s not enough.  He needs so much more.

And then I turn on the car and the words come over my cd player…

Never.  Under.  Estimate my Jesus.

You’re telling me that there’s no hope.

I’m telling you you’re wrong.”

And I start praying for this little boy.  “Abba Father, do what only You can do.”  Multiply this one measly hour.  Multiply these paltry words of affirmation in the life of this precious boy.

Where in your life are you feeling hopeless?  What words do you think Jesus might speak to you?