After Easter

Good morning!  So many of you are new to this blog that I decided to re-post an offering from last year about this time.  I pray it is encouraging to you today!

My cousin died last week.  And a friend was deeply wounded by something a loved one said to her.  And another friend continues to pray for healing from a painful illness.  And another is deeply discouraged.  I imagine each of you could add something to the list.

And last week, after Easter, I was reading in John 20 when Mary comes and finds the tomb empty.  It was my “scheduled” devotional reading, and I’m a rule-follower, so I was obedient, and read it, but inside I was thinking…”Easter is OVER!  Been there, celebrated that.  Let’s move on.” (I’m not proud, just being honest).

I felt like those people who leave their Christmas wreath up til May.  Easter didn’t feel relevant after Easter, which I know is soooo wrong, but like at the tomb, God was gracious and showed up

I was clonked on the head like one of the Three Stooges as I entered into this passage as Mary.  Yes, Mary Magdalene, the one who Jesus miraculously cast all the demons out of, but at the same time, someone like all of us, any of us, who are ever in pain, lost, confused... Continue reading

Changing the Hashtag

Is it just me or does it seem like Christians have been acting a little meaner lately?

Maybe this shouldn’t surprise me, but it does.

My mom was one of those who said “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  And mostly, my tribe has lived by that.  Certainly you who read this blog are in that camp.

But, it turns out that church world can be a pretty darn ugly place.  Especially in social mediaville.  Go figure.

World Vision is a vibrant, effective, non-profit organization that exists to serve the poorest of the poor in Jesus‘ name. We believe the work they do, with extraordinary commitment and love, is amazing.

Two weeks ago the leadership and board of World Vision made a series of mistakes. Mistakes they are heart-sick about.

Mistakes that have undercut the trust of supporters, and deeply wounded gay people who are beloved children of God.

But I’m thinking, maybe the biggest mistake the leadership of World Vision made was to drastically over-estimate the ability of Christian brothers and sisters to live in unity and love while not agreeing on everything.

Sadly, it seemed to me that many in the evangelical world responded with swords of self-righteousness drawn, marking battle lines.  It felt like everything was end-of-the-world-dramatic and horrible.

As I read the comments and tweets and posts I thought about our two daughters who are very different from each other.

One is an introvert – strong, with brown hair…wicked smart and a runner. The other is petite, blonde-haired, creative and committed to social justice. She does yoga.

Both are followers of Jesus.

They are beloved children of ours.                                                                                                                                     They are beloved children of God.

They are different from each other, and different from us and (surprise surprise), we don’t agree on everything. But…

We wouldn’t say to either of them, “You can’t possibly love Jesus or spend eternity with Him or do good in the world because you disagree with us on gay marriage.”

But that, essentially, is what many in the church did in response to an HR decision that was trying to love employees well and fairly, and recognize that although World Vision as an organization doesn’t endorse gay marriage, not all Christians agree with them.

It’s like the church people with the loudest voices were shouting with hashtags like #WHOSINANDWHOSOUT.

I confess that there have been times when that has been me.

The thing is, I don’t see anyplace in my Bible where, because someone didn’t agree with Jesus, He said, “Nope, that’s it!  Not gonna love you anymore.”#REJECT.

I don’t know that He’d be a hashtag kind of guy, but if He was I’m guessing it might be different than some of the ones I’m tempted to use.

In spite of the loud, pharisaical voices the world hears and has come to equate with “evangelicalism” – I am encouraged by some gentle-strong voices of friends who are saying with humility and grace, “We may disagree, on some things, but we both love Jesus and are trying to be kind and brave and love like He would.”

I believe there are many who would like to model a different kind of love to the world.  I believe there are many who, even if they disagree about some of the things, would unite around the Main Thing.  

I believe many who love Jesus would like to encourage one another under a new hashtag.

What if Christian organizations and churches and leaders united around the love that Jesus modeled?  What if we flooded social media with words of compassion and life and encouragement?  

Maybe we could talk to each other about the places we disagree face to face, where there’s room for nuance and expression and deeper understanding.

Will you join me in changing the hashtag?

#LOVEGODLOVEPEOPLE

Enough

I’m writing this from the balcony of another hotel in Israel.  This time in Jerusalem.  It’s early morning and church bells were just echoing nearby.  I kind of expect to see Maria from the Sound of Music scurrying by below me – late to morning mass.  But here she’d be passing Imams and Rabbis as she ran.  A tad different than Salzburg.

My times here in the Middle East are always ones of competing images.

Yesterday morning we spent time in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. I try to picture him running the hills of pine and cypress trees and working by His father, the carpenter. In the afternoon we were in Galilee, where Jesus fed crowds, and healed and preached on the Mount of Beatitudes.  He walked on the water and calmed the same.

And Jesus walks alongside me with the command that often seems impossible, “Be still and know that I am God.”

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Alongside these visual reminders of Jesus’ time on earth are the overwhelming images of a land divided, a land in conflict – unable, seemingly, to get along.  Israelis and Palestinians.  Christians, Muslims, Jews.  Some think supporting the state of Israel means hating Arabs. Others think that those who want to talk about the plight of Palestinians must hate Israel. Continue reading

Packing up Christmas and Choosing Life. Again.

Is this pathetic, or what?photo-70

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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What do you do with Jesus on the Corner, part 2

I think we’ve been getting better these days at being honest about the ugliness and selfishness and failures in our lives.  We call it authenticity and we put a high value on it.

In the past we’ve been better at just showing our shiny side and talking a good game.  So now we make a big deal about how much we fall short.  And it’s really good that we know that we’re all in this screw up boat together.

I’m comfortable sharing my failures.  There’s a lot of material there!  But I think we also need to be honest about those tiny moments of grace and small wins.  We need to say “Look!  With God’s help we can do this!”

Wednesday I shared my recent experience driving by a homeless woman and the fears that went through my head as I did.  I didn’t stop.  I want to be honest about the many times I’ve let Jesus down.

But last winter there was a different Jesus on the corner.  I was in Florida and it was early morning.  I was riding my bike to Starbucks as the sun came up pink over the palms and the boats moored in the harbor.

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What do you do with Jesus on the Corner?

I caught just a glimpse of Jesus as I turned right from the exit ramp off the highway and onto Excelsior Boulevard Sunday afternoon.

But He looked like a she.  She was young and round and sweating in the hot summer sun; holding a sign that said “Pregnant and Homeless”.

Only, apparently she hadn’t taken “Homelessness 101” because she wasn’t standing in the “right” spot where homeless  folks camp – the spot where cars have to stop and it’s easy to hand something out the window.

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What do Kingdom Conversations Sound Like?

Years ago, a wise old couple, (picture Mr. and Mrs. Yoda) – ones who have that “non-anxious presence” that is so winsome – impacted us greatly.

Every time we came away from a conversation with them we felt like our eyes, our hearts, our spirits had been lifted to something higher.  We came away feeling richer.  Sometimes inspired, sometimes challenged.  Sometimes with renewed vision.  We started referring to these as “kingdom conversations.”

They said they had learned the quality from people before them who always seemed to be able to redirect the focus of a conversation like a boomerang, away from themselves, back to the other person and the work of God.  Not in  cheesy manufactured way, but it was just part of who they were.

The other day we were with a group of young friends, discussing a new acquaintance who didn’t seem to be very good at the boomerang game.  Not a very good question-asker-listener.  Instead, this person seemed to be a little self-absorbed (like we all can be).

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2013 and Packing up Christmas

Dear Friends,  Happy New Year!

As we start into 2013 I want to thank you, many of you who have stumbled across this blog or had someone forward it to you and you kept coming back over this first full year of “Awake My Soul”.  Thank you to those of you who have commented, or FB messaged or texted or emailed me sharing your thoughts or how God may have used a particular post.  We’re all in this together, and although our individual stories are unique, the grand themes of God’s story in our lives are what we hold in common – hope, fear, brokenness, redemption…

My goal is to get better in 2013…to post what is more God-honoring, compelling, encouraging, smile-bringing to you so that you look forward three times a week to stopping by, or opening your email if you subscribe.

If you have suggestions or feedback I’d love to hear from you.  Other than that, I don’t want to sound too Holy-shmoly but I’m truly aware of my dependence on God for writing material.  Today, since many of you are newer, I’m going to repost a favorite from last year titled Packing up Christmas.  

Blessings,                                                                                                                         Laura

Daughters Katy and Maggie have gone back to D.C.                                                                      It finally snowed here in Minnesota (righting a cosmic wrong).                                          And I ‘m sitting by the fire in our kitchen at dusk with a cup of hot chocolate as I write this.  Maggie insists I call it hot chocolate instead of cocoa.  No idea why.

The Christmas decorations are packed away til next year.  Ornaments made with chubby hands and glue of love.  Unusual baubles brought from far flung places.  Decorations marking special times.

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As I pack up Christmas I feel so conflicted…

I love and hate this time of year.                                                                                                      I hate it that it’s the end of my favorite season.  The end of twinkle lights and anticipation, shining stars and awe-struck shepherds.  Putting things away is such a mark of endings, while Jesus is the celebration of new beginnings that I love.

Jesus.  Every-day grace and fresh starts.  Every day.  Not just at Christmas and not just at New Years.

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Never. Under. Estimate my Jesus.

I’m taking a little August Sabbatical, so I thought I’d repost one of my favorites from last year.  Eric is continuing to grow and went to his first baseball game this summer.  I tell him every time I see him that he is an amazing young man.  I think he may be starting to believe it…

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.

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Gold Cards, Security Lines, and Jesus

Do you know what your airline status is?

You know…the color that tells everyone how special (or not) you are?

I’m Silver in the eyes of Delta…just about to cross that magic threshold to Gold, but not quite there yet.  And I can’t even see the Promised Land of Platinum from where I sit in coach.

Yes, I’m Silver.  But John?  John is Gold.  All this usually means is that he gets bumped up to 1st class if it’s a 45 minute flight to Dubuque in non-rush-hour.

The other day, however, it meant more.

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