What Does “Witnessing” Look Like?

Monday I was out mowing the lawn on the steep hill in front of our house.  Back and forth under and around the trees, sweating.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw two pairs of women with young girls, Bibles in hand, making their way down our street, stopping at each house.  Jehovah’s Witnesses.  With invitations.

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I thought, “Ugh!  They have no relationship with me and they’re going to try to convert me.  I’m a challenge to them.  A project.  A name to add to their list.” (Christians would never do that! :))

My first inclination was to keep my head down and keep mowing, hoping that they’d take the hint and pass me by.  But then that pesky Holy Spirit reminded me of what I had been reading.  How I had been impressed by Phillip’s example of just asking a question of the Ethiopian who didn’t know Jesus (Acts 8) and how Jesus had modeled asking the question “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10)

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Can you Hear Him Now, and Does it Matter?

It’s summer, the glorious Minnesota summer of silver lakes with brightly colored sailboats leaning into the wind, and cheery cardinals in my back yard, and fifty shades of green, growing as enthusiastically as possible before the all-too short season ends.

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The other day I’m running.  And sweating.  A lot.  And thinking I am going to die (as usual). But I’m also on pace to go farther than I ever have.

I am scuffling around the east side of Lake of the Isles when I see a middle-aged woman sitting on a park bench.  She’s rubbing her eyes, looking like she might be crying.

IMG_2413Since I run at the pace of a turtle I have time to have a little conversation with God before I am too far gone.

God whisper: Maybe you should stop and ask if she’s ok.

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Invitations and the Three Things You Need

I’m not that person.  I’m not the sell-everything-move-to-the-slums-of-Calcutta-like-Mother-Theresa person.  That’s not the invitation I’ve sensed from God.  Yet.

I’m an ordinary girl trying to follow Jesus where He’s put me and getting it wrong a lot.

But if there’s one passion I have, it’s responding to the invitations God extends, as crazy as they might seem in my ordinary world.

The thing is these invitations rarely arrive in a giant Oscar-like envelope with a red seal screaming “THIS IS IMPORTANT!  PAY ATTENTION!”

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We long for invitation, but sometimes we have to lean close because the invitation is a whisper not a shout.

Recently, Bob Goff wrote,

“Jesus won’t try to speak over the noise in our lives; love whispers so we won’t be confused about who’s doing the talking.”

Sometimes it’s a whispered invitation to stop.  And do something you’ve never done before.  Something a tiny bit scary, or uncomfortable, or potentially embarrassing.

The whispered invitation may come right in your cramped apartment, or in your dysfunctional family, or on the road to work.

The invitation might look like a Jamaican cleaning woman stranded on the side of the road needing a ride,

or an injustice that begs for a note to your congressperson,

or a kid who could use a mentor or a meal.

The other day I saw a friend of mine who responded to the quiet invitation from God to take her aging parent for a delightful afternoon tea out, giving her mom loving attention and a listening ear no matter how confused she got.

Here’s the thing though.  I believe three ingredients are needed if you’re going to respond to these gentle, holy invitations.

An eye, an ear, an hour.

An eye for those in need, an ear attuned to the whispered prompts of God, and the time to respond.

I guess maybe the fourth thing that is needed is a willingness to actually do the work of responding, but the element that I think is most often missing in our lives, the thing that prevents us from responding to God’s invitations, is lack of margin.

A mentor of mine always said, “If you’re too busy to take a pot of soup to someone in need, you’re too busy.”

I know, I know…in some seasons margin is beyond our control.  And maybe the person in need is you.  You’re the perpetual care-giver who, like Elijah after an intense season, needs to respond to the whispered invitation for a snack and a nap.*

Then do that.  Pray. Rest.  Replenish.

But whether God whispers an invitation to be part of some kingdom work, or kingdom rest today, which element is most likely to get in the way of you responding?  An eye to see the needs, an ear to heaven, the guts to respond, or the time to do it?

God, show me where You want to work today, and invite me to be a part of it.  I’m trying to pay attention.

*1st Kings 19

What do You do With a Crazy God Whisper?

I’m not a mystic.  I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, and if you’ve read read this blog at all, you know that being alone with Him, without any other people around to fill the silence with laughter and music and celebrity gossip has been an acquired taste.

But probably the most life-giving, growing edge to my faith over the past twenty years has been paying attention to the promptings of God through the Holy Spirit.

This may sound sacrilegious, but it’s kind of like going on a joy ride with your crazy aunt and not knowing where you’ll end up.  You think she’s gonna zig and she zags.  You think you’re lost and bam!  You arrive at the edge of the Grand Canyon – more exhilarating than any snapshot could have prepared you for.

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On Stopping and More Tortillas

I stopped and talked to the homeless guy yesterday.

Yeah, that guy I’ve written about before. Ever present.  With the sign.

I drove up the ramp off the highway and the light was green so I didn’t have to stop and sit in the car next to him and his sign that reminds me he’s hungry and homeless while I wait.

I didn’t have to stare straight ahead, pretending I didn’t notice him.

The light was green.

The light said “go”

But I sensed the Spirit saying, “Stop.”

Ugggghhh.  I had a 23 second argument with God.

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When God Talks Crazy to You

There’s this homeless guy that I see many days.

He hangs out at the end of the ramp from the main highway near where I live.

He has a backpack and a cardboard sign.

He keeps regular hours.  Basically 9:00-5:00 as best I can tell.  Every day.

You know, like a real job.

This is a little confusing to me. I’ve often thought I should take the time to park and go ask him if he wants help applying for a job at one of the many businesses right near his spot.

I keep McDonald’s gift cards in my car that I give him sometimes when the light is red.

And I talk to him.  I’ve asked his name, but I can’t remember it.  Of course I sometimes forget the names of people I’ve met 12 times, but still, I’m not proud that I can’t remember homeless guy’s name.

Last Sunday I was driving to church with John’s sport coat and a nice black shirt in the car with me.

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How Costco is Soul-shaping

Sunday I went to Costco for hamburgers and came home with a vacuum cleaner.

I’d like to think it was my reward for surviving the Costco parking lot without committing murder or at least swearing, but maybe not so much.

My experiences at Costco have gotten me to thinking about this post from last December that I needed to remember in July…

I was maneuvering laboriously, with stops and starts, through the parking lot at Costco yesterday, thinking for the millionth time that the Costco parking lot is either an outer ring of hell or a brilliant opportunity for spiritual formation.  

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Bicycle Rules and Listening to God

Ever have God just show up and startle the bejesus out of you? (and where did that word, bejesus come from?)

First a little background…

Did you know that Minneapolis is the number one biking city in the country?  Yeah!  Even more than any of the twig-and-bark-eater cities out west!  We have more bike paths than any of them.

And there are a heck-of-a-lot-of bikers out there.  I know because most of them pass me on their slick road bikes.

When you pass someone the unspoken rule is that you say “On your left.” so they’re not startled and don’t swerve and end up causing a 10-bike pile-up with blood and need for super-hero bandaids.

The problem comes when people (and by people, I mean me) have earbuds in and are listening to other stuff.  I get startled a lot.  And the other day I got startled when I was listening to a message about hearing God’s voice.

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The Name of Your House

I’ve shared here before, about our daughters Katy and Maggie who are living together in Washington D.C…the Lucy and Ethel road trip we took to move Maggie out this September, and the story that’s been unfolding as they search for a faith community and pursue their dreams.

But here’s one thing that’s been bugging me.  They keep referring to the house where their apartment is as “The Haunted House.”

Now granted, theirs is the only occupied apartment in this 4-plex, but the reason they call it that has nothing to do with weird noises or needing Ghost busters.  It’s just that they live on a delightful street of well-kept row-houses and theirs, in comparison, looks like the stereotypical haunted house.

Theirs is the one to the left of the cute blue one with the flag out.  The one with the rusty wrought iron fence and the chipping paint you can’t see from here.

For a long time they couldn’t turn off their stove unless they unplugged it.  And the smoke detector was so sensitive that it screamed every time they made toast.

Green Gables.  Sunnybrook Farm.  Graceland.  Haunted House.

Haunted House?

That name may suit the outside appearance, but not the heart and spirit of the place.

Walls have echoed with lively conversation among friends about what church should be, laughter has spilled out the windows as folks have gathered around the girls’ tiny table for meals.  Hugs have been shared.  Plots have been hatched.  Love has abounded.

“Lord, I love the house where You live, the place where Your glory dwells.” Ps. 26:8

“And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His spirit.” Ephesians 2:22

A dwelling where God lives… like the home I grew up in that was a warm hug – safe, loving, making everything ok.  My friend Sue’s beautiful home on a lake that’s a home of grace, peace…a refuge.  My friend Deborah’s home that exclaims “Welcome!” and overflows with the abundant hospitality of God.  My sister-in-law, Betsy’s house is one of joy and laughter.

Homes where God lives.

 What might your home be named?  

Come Holy Spirit

I was maneuvering laboriously, with stops and starts, through the parking lot at Costco yesterday, thinking for the millionth time that the Costco parking lot is either an outer ring of hell or a brilliant opportunity for spiritual formation.  

As I dodged runaway giant shopping carts,

and waited for pedestrians absorbed in studying their shopping lists wandering blindly in the middle of the row,

and backed up for cars in front of me that slammed on their brakes upon spying the tell-tale white reverse lights of a car vacating a parking place they could nab

I thought of a spiritual practice a friend of mine has been advocating.  The simple practice of saying “Come Holy Spirit” throughout the day in situations like this that require patience, understanding, and discipline beyond me.

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