Three Scathingly Brilliant Ideas and Two Words

My nickname in our family is “Idea Woman”.  Often I am mocked with the refrain “God loves you and Laura has a wonderful plan for your life.”

It’s ok.  I’ll own it.  I can’t help the way my mind works.  Ideas just kind of spurt out like fireworks.

While they were growing up, the girls and I used to watch the old movie “The Trouble with Angels” about Haley Mills causing mischief in a catholic boarding school.  We often repeat her line, “I have a scathingly brilliant idea! with a gleam in our eyes.

All that to say, in the past couple years I’ve been struck by three things that friends have done that seem scathingly brilliant and I want to share them with you.  These are not my ideas.  I just wish I had thought of them! 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

Why my Daughter is Crying

As I may have mentioned Most people within a five hundred mile radius know that our daughter Maggie is getting married.  34 days, 9 hours and 27 minutes from this moment.

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I’m not gonna kid you.  We’ve experienced kind of a perfect wedding storm of crazy that totally caught us off-guard.  And there have been quite a few tears (also unusual).

The other day, daughter Katy passed along this tumblr that a guy started – Why My Son is Crying* – recording pictures and the reason why he was crying with each shot.  Maybe some of you know about this and I’m just late to the party (as usual).

Some of my favorite reasons for his tears are:

  • Buzz Lightyear’s knee is bent.
  • It took me longer than 0 seconds to take off his shirt.
  • I touched his foot with my foot.
  • We wouldn’t let him drink whiskey.
  • We wouldn’t let him open the hotel door and run naked through Times Square.

If you have been a parent for more than the time it took me to write this sentence, you can relate.

2 months old, 2 years old, 25 years old.  Our kids cry.  And sometimes when they’re little (rarely) it’s hard not to laugh at the absurdity.  But mostly tears break our hearts and we just want to fix whatever is wrong.

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Dance. Just for Today

I’m tired of significant and meaningful and reflective.  I’m tired of seriousness and sin.  I’m weary of North Korea, and Congo and terror in Boston.  I want someone else to be responsible for today.  And I feel like a terrible human being admitting that.

Just for today I want to dance in the kitchen and hug my kids, and write a thank you note and eat fresh berries.

A friend of mine who works tirelessly for justice in the ugliest parts of the world was, at one time, on a sailboat in a lovely tropical port.  She said she wrestled with the incongruity, the unfairness of the situation.  Why should she get to enjoy such a lovely respite while so many are fighting for survival, enduring violence, and oppression?  How could she accept the gift that is her relatively privileged life?

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The Story God’s Given You on Fearless Friday

I had a great phone conversation recently with a high capacity leader on the other side of the country.  She is confident, bold, and faithful in using the gifts God has given her.  She inspired me, and challenged me. I walked away from our conversation encouraged…with renewed passion.

Usually I love to read how God is at work in the lives of others!  I love to ask people where they’re noticing the work of God.  Love to hear stories of big faith and audacious prayers.

Conversations like I had with my leader friend are an important part of living into community.  But if that’s all I’ve got, that’s not enough.  We can’t just live off of someone else’s story.  We each need a first-hand experience of God.  I love the way Mark Batterson says this.  “God’s dream for you is bigger than a second-hand faith.”

Sometimes, though, we’re tempted to settle for second-hand.  Easier to cheer from the sidelines than get in the race because…you know…

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Two Boys and God

This is the story of two boys, half a world apart.  Two boys who have never met, and probably never will, but have become brothers in some small sense.

It’s a story about two boys, but it’s also a story about God.  God who saw Michael in rural Uganda and Eric in urban Minneapolis and thought maybe they could help each other out.

Mike (1)

I’ll never forget the day we met Michael in Rakai Uganda, 2009  He was 14 years old.  A little boy with a man inside.  We were there to celebrate the completion of World Vision’s transforming work in this forgotten place of AIDS and dirty water and parentless families.

Michael had traveled fifteen miles on dusty African roads and stood straight and tall, shoulders back, dressed in his best sky blue shirt and khaki pants.  He spoke to John and me in perfect English:

“I have come to you on behalf of myself and my schoolmates.  We need your continued help.  It is my dream to become a doctor, but without help I will not be able to attend the schools I need to.  I beseech you (yes, that’s what he said :)).  Please do not leave us.  I want to be the best doctor in Africa.”

Michael was articulate, brave, and clearly a leader.  A remarkable young man.  There was no way we could turn our backs on his need, so along with another couple we committed to pay his tuition through medical school.

Soon after that, back here in urban Minneapolis I started tutoring Eric, a young boy, 10 years old, who had moved here from Togo.  Struggling to learn everything in his fifth language.  Times tables, american culture, the harsh realities of cruel middle school boys.

Unlike Michael, Eric didn’t have dreams other than making it through the baffling days at school.

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Still, like Michael I saw a core strength in Eric.  A tiny spark of courage and hope that enabled him to keep showing up, like the robins who seem to have irrationally appeared back in Minnesota in spite of our April snow.

And this is when God showed up.  In a whisper.

I felt like He was saying, “Michael should mentor Eric.”

Michael, now 18, in Uganda with his dream, was meant to inspire Eric, now 14, struggling to find his way in Minneapolis.

And so I introduced them. Through letters.

And Michael, a young man who has never traveled more than 125 miles from his home, never seen the ocean or ridden an airplane, is challenging and inspiring Eric, a world away.

I helped Eric write Michael about his life here in America and here is some of what Michael wrote back:

I think you are surprised that I know your name and you wonder how I got it.  You should know that both I and you share some very important people in our lives.  One of those people is Aunt Laura.  I live in Uganda and she told me that you came from Togo.  So you and I are brothers because we were born in the same area (continent).  For me I have not travelled to any other country and I am happy for you because you are in America.

Aunt Laura told me that you are a very great boy and she is proud of you.  She is always praying for you so that you can get used to the American system of education and American sports.  We both trust you will soon do well, but you should be working hard and have a very positive attitude about what you are doing.  Pray also as you word hard and God will help you learn what is difficult.  Share with Aunt Laura whatever is hard for you.  I am sure she will help you.

When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Eric had written “a policeman because they get to drive cars fast.”  He had also said he likes reading about the bad guys in the Bible from a book I gave him.  This is part of Mike’s response:

It is not bad to become a police officer, but you also need to continuously seek for career guidance from Auntie Laura and Uncle John so that you can know other professions in life. 

While at school, we receive a spiritual leader who leads us in fellowship and when I go back home, I go to church every Sunday just like you.  Which bad guys do you always read about from the Bible?  What things did they do?  

For me, I always read about good guys like Samuel, Moses, and David, a young man who was loved by God and made king.  From these I get inspiration and think you also need it.  Please try to read about these three good guys.  You will find it important.  Tell me what you learn.

None of this life stuff for teenage boys is easy.

Neither have fathers in their lives.  I don’t know what the future will hold.  But very time I see Eric to tutor him and every time I write Michael, I try to leave them with these words, “Never forget, you are an amazing young man and God can do great things through you.”

Awhile ago, after I had said that to Eric at the end of our tutoring time in a room removed from the other kids who are prone to tease and distract, he went downstairs where they were playing pool, and he approached the head of the tutoring program.  I prompted, “Eric, tell him.”

Shyly he said, “I am an amazing young man.”

I think that Michael is helping him believe that too.  And I pray it is making a difference.

Lord, thank you that on days that feel bland and monotonous and like oatmeal without the brown sugar, You – Your holy hands are working behind the scenes, redeeming and weaving together lives that You see are bright and beautiful and deserve hope.

Kingdom Come

We all long to be inspired.

My favorite movies are the ones where I walk out with an uplifting sound track for my life, reassured that God is good and all things are possible.  There really is still nobility and there are kingdom-bringers in the world. Think Shawshank and The Natural, and The Blindside.

So I loved it when we heard the story, years ago, of a friend of ours, John Dellenback, who was a congressman from Oregon. When he turned 81 he gathered his children and grandchildren together and gave each of them $81, instructing them to prayerfully invest it in a kingdom venture during the year and report back.

Sadly, John died before the his next birthday.  At his funeral, each of his children and grandchildren came forward, one by one, telling what happened with their kingdom investments.  Kingdom inspiration was part of his legacy.

I soaked up some inspiration this week, too, when I heard a similar story from our friend, Erik.  Erik’s parents-in-law are also friends, and last Christmas they gave each of their grown children and spouses, a hundred dollar bill with the assignment to pray and be on the lookout for a place to invest it in something of the kingdom of God here on earth.

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Over a year had passed and Erik still had the $100 in his wallet.  This past week he was in San Francisco for a conference.   San Francisco, where, it’s hard not to go a block without encountering a homeless person asking for help.

As Erik walked to and from meetings, he felt guilty, hearing Jesus whisper, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

After a sleepless night and further reminders about how Jesus, fully God, had become a servant to love others, he said to himself with conviction…”Today is the day I am going to give my $100. I’m going to give to the first person who asks!”

I’ll let him tell the rest in his own words…

I had a meeting with a potential client at 8 AM at a breakfast cafe. This was someone I’d never met, only spoke on the phone and someone I needed to impress.

I left my hotel at 7:30 to walk 6 blocks through Union Square Park where I anticipated passing people lying on the ground or holding a cup. Surprisingly I didn’t pass a single person fitting my “profile.”

At 8 AM, the client arrived, we ordered our breakfast and had just sat down to eat. Before I said more than five words a woman approached our table towards the back of the restaurant. She was clearly who God had sent. She was 40+, snarly short blond hair, wore a dirty jacket and didn’t have it together. Clearly embarrassed, she asked the man I was meeting with for $5 to go to Denny’s around the corner for breakfast. He said, “I’m sorry, ma’m but I can’t.”

She then looked at me and with emotion in her eyes said, “Please sir, can you help me out?” I got up, and motioned for her to walk with me outside.

As I reached into my pocket for the $100, I tried to say something, but before I could she said, “I know…Jesus loves me.” I nearly broke down. I pulled the money out of my pocket put it in her hand and said, “Yes, Jesus loves you!

To confirm that God has a sense of humor, she looked in her hands and when she realized it was a $100 bill, look at me and said, “Holy S#@*T!” and gave me a huge hug.

I then turned and walked back into the restaurant now needing to explain myself to this guy I had just met. I told him about the kingdom challenge and that I had committed to giving my $100 to the first person who asked and apologized if I had embarrassed myself.

We had a great discussion and as we finished I went to the counter to get a refill on my coffee and he walked out the front door. I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw him reaching out and giving money to a homeless man right then and there.

I smiled and thanked God for revealing Himself to me today. I don’t deserve to be loved so unconditionally, so gracefully forgiven and to be to so incredibly blessed.

I know…all kinds of “What if’s” and “Yeah, buts” may spring to mind as you read this.

But what if this was just about one person showing the lavish over-the-top abundance of the kingdom to someone in need?  And another person being inspired to do the same.

Kingdom come.

When has God presented you with a “kingdom come” opportunity to be His hands and feet in the world?  What’s inspired you lately?

The One Word that Might Change Your 2013

I’ve been reading and listening to boat loads of advice in the past two weeks on resolutions, goals, and all things to make the 2013 me stronger, more successful, and more godly (all with a flatter tummy of course).

You too?  Feeling a little overwhelmed?

Some advocate shorter term goals and then evaluation and refinement, instead of setting big year-long goals.  I like that.

Others suggest making a “stop” list.  Yeah, I like that too.

And others admonish us to start and end our goal-setting with prayer.  Yep.  Good word.

But the newish “in” thing seems to be choosing ONE WORD for the year.

Trashing a list of resolutions and instead focusing on one word, one word to live into with God for the year.

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Second-hand Faith

I’m taking a little August Sabbath, so here’s a short repost I edited from last year that I’m still thinking about…
I had a great phone conversation last night with a high capacity leader on the other side of the country.  She is confident, bold, and faithful in using the gifts God has given her.  She inspired me, and challenged me. I walked away from our conversation encouraged…with renewed passion.
I LOVE to read how God is at work in the lives of others!  I love to ask people where they’re noticing the work of God.  Love to hear stories of big faith and audacious prayers.
Conversations like I had last night are an important part of living into community.  But if that’s all I’ve got, that’s not enough.  We can’t just live off of someone else’s story.
 We each need a first-hand experience of God.  I love the way Mark Batterson says this.  “God’s dream for you is bigger than a second-hand faith.”
Yep, God appeared to Moses (Exodus 3:5), but he also showed up and spoke to Joshua (Joshua 5:14,15).  And Hagar!  He showed up for Hagar!  An outcast in the desert!  Similar situation, different God-story.  He walked with Abraham, wrestled with Jacob, whispered to Elijah, argued with Job, and struck Paul blind to get his attention.
As I think about what marked these people with first-hand faith, I think of two important qualities that characterized their lives.

What Encourages You?

What encourages you?

A “Way to go!“?

A listening ear?

Someone caring enough to tell you a hard truth you may have been blind to?

A note letting you know someone (other than your mom) cares you’re alive?

In a few weeks I’m supposed to preach with my husband on the topic of encouragement.

Please help me out and share your thoughts and experiences on the topic!  What it is, what it isn’t and how it impacts you.  Examples??  

Maybe you’re encouraged when you see an inspiring story.  Last week I shared about my experience with Random Acts of Kindness and then this week I saw this (thanks to Austin Dannhaus!).  It so moved and inspired me that I wanted to share it with you.  Have a great weekend filled with joy and hope. (Be sure to watch to the very end!)