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)



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

What I’ve Learned About God at Halloween

This is a re-post from two years ago.  I hope it’s an encouraging reminder this Halloween.

I think that Halloween is my husband’s favorite day of the year.  Odd, I know for a pastor.  The pc answer should be Easter,right?  But honestly, I think he likes Halloween best because there’s not much that brings him as much joy as handing out candy and oohing and ahhing over every single kid’s costume.  He looks forward all year to parking his chair by the front door and waiting for kids to come.  Even though he’s terrible at figuring out what the costumes are, he greets each kid as if they were THE most amazing, creative, delightful goblin of the night.

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5 Things I’m Learning Around my Scarred Table

Tuesday we had a large group of people over for a BBQ in our backyard.  It was truly the perfect Minnesota summer evening.  Dry, 78 degrees, miraculously mosquito-free.  (for a minute I looked around thinking Jesus must be coming back).

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It was a delightful evening of good conversation and laughter, but it’s not like everything was perfect.  John burned most of the brats and 7 (yes 7!) people cancelled within an hour and a half of our start time.

It’s not like everything is always coordinated.  I’ve been known to use a hodgepodge of leftover holiday paper napkins.  Other times we’ve planned for outside but at the last minute rain has blown in or it’s been so hot and muggy we’ve had to frantically un-set and re-set for Plan B, everyone preferring to crowd in our small, but dryer, cooler house.  And I don’t always  usually handle this well.  Often I’m just a stressed out hot mess about change and flexibility.

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Saving a Place on Fearless (Good) Friday

This morning I sat down at Starbucks at my table next to the fireplace with Phillip.  He’s like Norm of Cheers, friendly and fun.  Except that he’s tall and he’s from England.  He’s here every morning at 5:00.  He knows everyone and chats with all.

Today he wanted to talk about God and church and how he didn’t think God could love him.  And I wanted to listen.


Underneath the jovial facade, what I heard was fear.  A fear that all of us have if we’re honest.  Fear of not being good enough.  Fear of not having a place in community where he would be loved and accepted.

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Invitations of the Scary Kind

I wrote yesterday about how I don’t see myself usually as the cowabunga-bungee-jumping for Jesus type.


But I am trying to be a person that responds to whatever God invites me into.

Sometimes that’s leaning in to hear a whisper and being obedient in one of the million small invitations from God in daily life.

But sometimes there are big scary invites that take us off-guard.

They are as clear as a public marriage proposal booming over the loud-speaker at the Twins Stadium.  And that can be the most disconcerting kind.

So when I got a request to go teach a class to seminary students in middle-of-nowhere-rural Northern Kenya I wanted to put on Bose head phones to drown it out. (Yes. They are clearly desperate.)

I’ve never taught a seminary course and I’ll be alone without John, my best coach in all things challenging.  So the refrain in my head is “Ican’t/I’mnot/Ican’t/I’mnot…”

But like I’ve written before, I’m not, but He is.  And I really can’t ignore this, even though it makes me quake in my boots (or in my TOMS as the case may be).

And I’m inspired by some friends of mine who are responding to an much bigger crazy invite…adopting two orphans from the D.R.C.  You know, Congo, where there’s been horrendous gender violence (that means rape and worse) and warfare and the perfect storm of natural disaster, poverty, and evil.  And yes, you read right.  Two, yes two kids, with two more at home.

This is a big invitation that God has confirmed in both their hearts from the time they were dating until now.  Through scary developments and uncertainty they are trusting God to knit together a loving family of American born biological kids with Congolese babies abandoned out of desperation.

But there are also invitations of a different kind.  Big invitations to rest, that come in the form of end-of-your-rope-exhaustion and require you to say “no” may be just as scary and as the invitations to jump.

Here’s the thing…I don’t think we’re ready to say “yes” to any of the “bigger”, riskier things unless we’ve said “yes’ on the days of small things.

Would David have been ready to say “yes” to God’s invitation to fight Goliath, if he hadn’t said “yes” to the ordinary, boring, everyday stuff of protecting his sheep before that?

Would Elijah have had the courage to say “yes” to a showdown with the prophets of Baal if he hadn’t trusted God to provide food and water before that?

Would Daniel have been prepared to defy Darius when push came to shove if he hadn’t quietly been honoring God daily before that?

So as I prepare to send the email responding to the loud scary-big invite in my life, I’m trying to say “yes” to the whispers of today.  And I’m praying for my dear friends on their journey to respond to Jesus’ invite to come pick up two toddlers in Congo.

Are there ways you’ve seen God use everyday whisper invitations to prepare you for loud riskier ones?

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!”


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

Trick or Treat

Today I am traveling in Israel and the Palestinian territories with a group of women desiring to listen deeply and learn.  To be present to God and to each person we meet.  I’ll be posting about our time here, but today I’m trying to absorb and process.

So as we approach Halloween, I decided to edit a post from last year.  I’m grateful many new folks have found this blog over the past 12 months and I pray God uses this to encourage you today.

I think that Halloween is my husband’s favorite day of the year.  Odd, I know for a pastor.  The pc answer should be Easter,right?

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You’re (NOT) Invited!

Which of these do you like better?

“You’re invited!” or “Everyone’s welcome!”

Holy buckets!  There’s a big difference in my mind between those two phrases.

One is personal.  The other is just permissive.

There’s going to be a Girls’ Night out.  Or a BBQ.  Some folks doing Kareoke.  A church event.  Lots of people are going.  You know that because you’ve seen it on Facebook or read Tweets about it.

But you’re not invited.

If you asked, they’d probably say, “Sure, come!  Everyone is welcome!”  But that’s different from being personally invited.

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“You’re Invited!”

Aren’t those words magical?!  You feel special.  Included.  Valued.  There’s a sense of anticipation.

One of the things I love most about God’s character is that He is an inviter.  A “welcome to the party” God…  An “I’ve been waiting for you to arrive!” God… A “Come as you are” God…

He’s the Host at the Banquet, the Greeter at the door, the Provider of refreshment for those who are hungry and thirsty.

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Waiting at the Door

I think that Halloween is my husband’s favorite day of the year.  Odd, I know for a pastor.  The pc answer should be Easter,right?  But honestly, I think he likes Halloween best because there’s not much that brings him as much joy as handing out candy and oohing and ahhing over every single kid’s costume.  He looks forward all year to parking his chair by the front door and waiting for kids to come.  Even though he’s terrible at figuring out what the costumes are, he greets each kid as if they were THE most amazing, creative, delightful goblin of the night.

Last night he took it to a new level.  He carried his rocking chair outside and our firepit along with a jack-o-lantern and a big basket of candy.  As I was watching him it struck me how much his posture towards the kids is like God’s towards us, only we usually miss it.  How many times do we approach God as if the lights were out and the door locked tight?  Like we have to convince Him to care…to show up…to answer us?  Instead, the Bible says He stands at the door, He’s the father out watching for His son to show up, He’s the party-giver inviting us to a banquet, He delights in us, sings over us.

One day years ago when I was angry and defeated and God seemed like a mean God I told Him I felt like I was a cat and He kept dangling a mouse in front of me in the form of an answer or a way out of the pain, but then snatching it away repeatedly. Dangle, snatch, dangle, snatch.

At the time I was anguishing over this mean God image it was summer and we were staying with some close friends who live in a lovely home on a lake. Very early one morning I got up and was sitting on the dock praying.  The water was still, the sun and the loons barely awake.  In my journal I wrote, “I can’t stand it.” Cat and mouse.  Dangle, snatch, dangle, snatch.

As I wrote this, God brought to mind a passage of scripture…I remembered something about a father and a stone…  It was a clear impression I couldn’t ignore…a passage I hadn’t thought of for years.  I looked in my concordance to discover where it was.  Matthew 7.  It says, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread will give him a stone…If you who are evil know how to give good gifts, how much more will your Father in heaven.”

I thought, “Well, that’s nice.  Thanks for that reminder, but it sure still feels like a cruel game you’re playing.”  Then I looked up the same passage in the Message paraphrase.  Here’s what it said:  “This isn’t a cat and mouse game we’re in.” I’m not kidding.  Exactly those words.  Exactly addressing my feelings.  I was floored.  I looked around, stunned by this personal, loving response from my “mean God”.

The door isn’t locked.  The lights aren’t off. He is an incredibly personal God who delights in His kids who show up.