Defining the Relationship

As I write this we’re in London with some of our closest friends, heading to a board meeting where our husbands will work, and the wives will continue to play. We pray for them and drink tea.  Or wine.  It’s an arrangement I’m partial to.  

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Anyway, I wrote this post (below) a week or so ago and as I read back over it this morning before hitting “publish”, I think it is true, and hopefully helpful, but like most things, it’s certainly not the whole story.

We are blessed beyond belief with the relationships God has given us.  If they are healthy, they ebb and flow.  We weep together in one season and laugh together in another.  Sometimes those seasons are one and the same.  We give and take, rant and chatter and share vulnerably.  We listen, and pray.  A lot.  We gather around a table or show up to help each other move or we write a note. We are all resourceful, important, trainable, nice, draining people…and somehow in the midst of doing life together we are changed.  We are iron sharpening iron and I am so grateful that God has given us all to each other.

It seems like there’s been a recurring theme in a bunch of my conversations lately.  It’s the DTR theme, and I don’t mean in the dating sense of the word. Continue reading

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…
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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

To All Those Who Didn’t Show

I wrote yesterday about the waiting on the Fool’s Bench at Easter.

As it turned out, I didn’t sit.  I stood near the door to church in the Great Room, craning my neck, looking over the shoulder of anyone I was talking to, hoping to see the shaved bald head of my next-door-neighbor and his blond wife walk in.

I prayed and prayed.  I saved seats at two (count ’em, two!) services, which did NOT endear me to those who did come and were tackling others for a spot, practically paying hard cash money so they could sit inside the sanctuary instead of in the overflow rooms.

It didn’t happen.  Yes, the other friend did show at an earlier service and I pray that she felt totally hogswaggled by the enormity of God’s love for her, but it’s hard not to focus on the ones who didn’t come.  photo-109

I’ve been thinking about them…All the friends and neighbors and co-workers and prodigal family members you invited to church this Sunday.  Or last.  Or any one of a bazillion times. Continue reading

The Fool’s Bench at Easter

It’s early Easter morning as I write this at Starbucks.  Husband John has already come and gone to church to proclaim, “He is risen!” at the second of six services (The first was last night.  Weird, but I guess it was already Easter somewhere in the world)

 

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As I sit here, some come in dressed in their Easter best – pastel and fancy.  All patent leathery.  Others wander in their scruffy Sunday morning grunge – either clueless or apathetic or defiant.  I wonder which as I watch them.

Last night John got an email from some friends who have had no use for church.  It started, “You probably hate those ‘dicks’ who just show up at Christmas and Easter, but ___________(his wife) has had a rough month.  Her dad died and she may show up at your church tomorrow.” Continue reading

Changing the Conversation

Last night most of America was watching the Oscars...the red carpet beautiful people who seem to be as good at dodging questions as a politician running for office.  Many questions the press hurls at them are inappropriately personal or just stupid.  Who wouldn’t want to avoid some of that?  But there are other times when changing the conversation is positive, and important to growth.

This afternoon I’m leaving on a trip to Israel/Palestine.  I’m traveling with a few people from our church, led by Telos, an organization we’ve been partnering with that desires to engage evangelicals in conversations with Israelis and Palestinians pursuing peace.

This is hard stuff.  Complicated and intense and emotional, and personal for so many.  Frankly, I might prefer it if Jesus invited me to follow Him into, say…Hawaii maybe. Continue reading

Two Responses to What Lies Beneath

On my list of gifts, one that recurs often is “fresh snow” (Lou Malnati’s pizza is also a top runner).  Snow is as magical as fairy dust to me.  It’s a good thing I love it, because I live where there’s a lot of it.

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As I write this, here in Minnesota it’s snowing.  Again.  Like it does just about every three days for the six months we call winter.

It’s hard to believe, but a day is coming when it will start to melt.  And when it does we move from “Winter”, not to “Spring” as they do in North Carolina, for example, but to “Butt Ugly”.

While the cherry blossoms are exploding around the tidal basin in Washington D.C. and the Bluebonnets are dancing across the hills of Texas, the gorgeous white crystals that have been blanketing everything in Minnesota start to mushify (yes, that’s a thing), exposing trash from last fall, like gum wrappers and a single tennis shoe, and the mitten someone lost. I’m still hoping my keys that disappeared on a walk around Lake Harriet five years ago will turn up.

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I love snow when it’s new and fresh.  It’s always been a visual reminder to me of God’s grace, and grits in Louisiana.  It just comes.  Snow, like grace, is not something we work for or make happen.

But the “Butt Ugly” season is a visual reminder too. It’s a reminder that while I can receive the gift of forgiveness and mercy for the ugliness of sin in my life, I need to be careful that I don’t just bury it without dealing with it. Kind of like that email that’s going to be hard to respond to so you put it in a file to respond to later.

What do I do with the trash that lies beneath? Continue reading

Packing up Christmas and Choosing Life. Again.

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I think the day I take down our Christmas tree is the saddest day of my year.  I may have mentioned once.  Or fifty bazillion times to my family.

photo-4I don’t want to pack up the glow of starlight and holy mystery, the delight of twinkle lights and tingly anticipation of bright wrapping and all the lovely things.

There is no better story than this long-awaited birth.  I don’t want to stop thinking about ordinary but devoted Mary pondering “plan B”, or Joseph responding to the holy interruption that turned his world upside-down.  I love imagining the crazy-plain and teenaged shepherds wearing eau de crap, on hillsides invited the event of the millennium.  I don’t want to stop celebrating Jesus’ arrival in a humble place like Bethlehem.

Putting things away is such a mark of endings, while Jesus is the celebration of new beginnings that I love.  It seems like a death when my One Word is LIFE. (You can still join Awakeners opting in and post your One Word here if you want!)

So when our tree is dead and the boughs are browning and the world is encased in ice like a corpse, how do we continue to choose life?

A friend sent me this quote:

“The true meaning of Christmas is found in the sharing of one’s graces in a world in which it is so easy to become cold, insensitive and hard.  Once this spirit becomes part of life, every day is Christmas and every night is freighted with the dawning of fresh and perhaps holy adventure.” H Thurmond

Choosing life means we choose grace.  We return again and again to the manger where Life and Light arrived on Christmas, not because we earned it but because it showed up when we least expected it and didn’t deserve it.  We accept the gift and share it with others.

When I think of this Christmas choice I think of a mentor named Coke.  She and her pastor husband were much maligned and criticized by a bitter old man in the church where we served many years ago, but one of the images I store of her in my memory is when I walked into a concert being held in the church basement.  There was Coke, sitting next to her “enemy”, leaning in and listening to him with love and attention in her eyes.  She was extending grace, and celebrating Christmas in that everyday moment.

Right now, what is one significant relationship in your life?  Hard or easy.  A spouse or a friend. A mother-in-law or a fiancé.  Got someone in mind?

What would it look like to extend grace to them and celebrate Christmas again today?  Offering an apology from the deepest part of you?  A word of affirmation, encouragement or forgiveness?  A secret act of service?  A listening ear?

“Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you?” 2 Cor. 13:5

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Missing Church?

Mark Batterson recently tweeted: One of my driving motivations as a pastor is this – do people actually MISS church when they MISS church?

A couple of weeks ago on Sunday I was away from home.  We knew there was going to be an opening worship service for the conference we were at so no morning worship was planned.  But then some folks got together and said, “There’s just something about the Body gathered for Sunday morning worship that seems…holy…honoring…right. Like we’re missing something without it.”

They weren’t being legalistic, but they decided to put together a Sunday morning time of worship for anyone who wanted to come.  Lazily I almost didn’t go, but at the last minute slipped into the back and was treated to voices from every continent raised together in praise, a corporate exercise in adoration using the Psalms, and a simple Bible message.  Reminders all of the love of Jesus and the power of the Body joined in community.

This discipline of gathering as the church, weekly, has been something I’ve been pondering a lot recently. Continue reading

When God’s Good Work Doesn’t Seem Good

Tuesday morning at 2:11 a.m. our friends’ baby took one last breath and slipped into the hands of Jesus.  Gentle, healing hands much bigger than ours.

Her parents have known for six months as she fought to grow in her mama’s tummy, that short of a miracle, her breaths would be few, if at all.

Every time the doctors asked if they wanted to abort, they gently said “No”, grateful when the question stopped coming.  They are strong.  They cling to Jesus.

With a good idea of what was ahead, they read with faith and heartache, “I knit you together in your mother’s womb.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”  But she was. Continue reading

Good Fights

I think I had a pretty good fight recently.  Not great, but it was progress.  Let me backtrack.

Someone did something that made me, well… furious!

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I grew up in a home where there was very little conflict, and when there was, we ignored it.

You know, like a kid who thinks if he closes his eyes no one will see him.  So conflict’s not really been my thing.  It’s had to be a growing edge for me as an adult.

And I’ve done it wrong. A. Lot.

When someone said something thoughtless, or did something mean, or (gasp!) was controlling or dismissive or disagreed with me…

I’ve done the angry email thing and the passive-aggressive thing, and the withdraw and punish thing…

See, I told you I was bad at this!

But the other day, once I settled down, I experienced a tiny (and I mean tiny) victory.  Continue reading