Holding My Breath

It’s summertime, which for me conjures up memories of being at the “Lake House” with my cousins, perpetually in a wet swim suit, rarely out of the lake.  One of the many games we would play was “who-can-hold-their-breath-longest-without-dying”.

Ok, it wasn’t a real active game, but you know…simple pleasures.  And nobody actually died so our parents considered it a win.

Sometimes, as adults, without even thinking about it, we play life like the  “who-can-hold-their-breath-longest-without-dying” game.

When I started running, I became much more aware of the importance of rhythm and rest, and basics. Like breathing.  And not holding our breath til we, you know, pass out.

This is not about Sabbath, but Selah. Selah is a term used mostly in the Psalms and a few times in Habbakuk that is a bit of a mystery.  Scholars aren’t positive what it means, but they think it means “rest” or “pause”.

Mark Batterson says, like in music, if Sabbath is a full rest, maybe Selah is a sixteenth rest.  A chance to catch your breath.

Or maybe Selah is the life jacket that helps us pop up above the water of everyday stress.


If, as Eugene Peterson says, Sabbath is a day of “shutting down and shutting up.” maybe Selah moments are those in your day where you stop to think about breathing.  Reorient, and remember that you’re not in control, but you know the One who is. 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

Lost In Soweto and Bethlehem

“Let us drown out the howling nonsense of Gomorrah with the melodies of the New Jerusalem.” – Spurgeon

In 1996, shortly after the Rwandan genocide, just when AIDS was gaining attention, not many years after the end of Apartheid in South Africa, we got lost in Soweto.

There were six of us, white americans crammed in a car, driving around in circles until we stumbled upon the place where Nelson Mandela came and spoke after his release from prison. As I remember, it it was large and cavernous.  We walked inside, the only ones there.

In the silence, our friend started singing in a crystal clear voice, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

The notes softly bounced off the ceiling, the floor, the walls.  It was a holy moment.  We let it wash over us.  It was a melody of the New Jerusalem.

Many years later I walked into the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, crowded with tourists, wanting a piece of Jesus, but not necessarily wanting the sacrifice necessary for Peace. Continue reading

Three Things to Listen For

John and I “mentor” several young men and women, but I’m not crazy about that word.  Basically we’re all just travelers on a road trip trying to help each other find the exits, and the Culvers, scrape up enough money for tolls, and not crash.

All of us stumble and run and trudge along with each other.  Parent and child, friends of different generations, boss and staff, coaches, teachers, trainers…

Healthy or wounded or recovering, energized at times and weary at others, seeking sometimes, finding at others.  Discouraged or joy-filled we need each other.  

In all relationships I want to be present to God and to the other at the same time.  Kind of like when I’m in the Great Room at church after worship, talking to someone I can always discern John’s voice if he’s also in the room.  It’s distinctive and I know it.  How I long for that same ear attuned God’s voice while I’m in conversation with others!

Awhile ago I heard someone suggest that as we are present to God with others, there is often one of three things He may want us to listen for that may be needed.

1 Thessalonians 2:11,12 says “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting, and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

Whether it’s a child or friend or co-worker, does this person need encouragement and affirmation?  A picture of what’s possible?  Celebration of what you’ve seen in them?  Naming their gifts?

Or do they need an empathic listening ear?  Someone to sit by their side and remind them they’re not alone?

Lastly, might they need a kick in the butt?  Maybe that takes the form of correction or facing hard truth, or setting the bar higher?

This being present to God and others doesn’t come naturally for me.  It takes practice and  paying attention.  And sometimes I just ask the person, “What do need most today?”

As I reflect over my conversations from yesterday, I was responsive to God’s nudging with friends who needed comfort and encouragement, but with the boy I tutor, I think urging – more challenge – was called for, and I missed it in the moment.

What about you?

God Told Me…Maybe

Yesterday I got a call from a young friend trying to make a big decision.

And he said “God told me…” a bunch of times throughout the conversation.

I squirmed and felt just a tiny bit uncomfortable as I listened.

I’m not crazy about that phrase.  Not because I don’t think God “speaks”, but because 99% the time when I hear those particular words, what “God tells” the person seems to be rationalizing something they really, really already want to do.

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Praying Present

The other day I prayed a lot.

But not at all.

Not really.

I journalled thoughts kind of aimed at God like a wad of paper flipped haphazardly over my shoulder towards the trash can.

I repeated the words of the Lord’s Prayer in church along with everyone else.  Really fast like in a race.

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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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Fearless Friday and My Brother

It’s Fearless Friday in our One Word year!  Catch up and join us!

You may think you have the best family in the history of the universe, but you don’t.

I do.

I know I don’t deserve it.  I don’t recycle enough and I can be petty and selfish and I sometimes pray for things like losing weight when many are starving, and there’s a lot of other bad stuff I’m not going to tell you about.

The only thing I can attribute my family to is grace.  Period.  But there you have it.  Yes, we have our own set of crazy, but I’m still convinced my family is the best.

Anyway, now that we’ve got that straight, I want to introduce you to one of my two wonderful brothers.  I like to call him “Baby David” and he calls me “Sweet Sis” and he is one of the kindest, most godly men I know.  He’s on the right below, washing dishes at Thanksgiving with John.


Last Friday he wrote me such an encouraging note in response to the One Word post.  He, like so many of you, will text or email, or FB message me with these incredibly rich insights that others don’t get to see unless they’re in the comment section here on the blog.  So I asked David if I could post some of the words from his email and he graciously said “yes.”  Here’s what he wrote:

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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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The Chorus of a Bleak January

I’ve been doing something weird lately.

It’s January and I think most of us are feeling a bit schizophrenic.  Relieved to get back to the predictable routine of catching the bus to work, and grocery shopping, hair cuts and t.v. shows and recycling.

But there’s also the let down of ordinariness and a bleak winter (for those of us in Minnesota at least) stretching out interminably and we’re thinking it would be kind of nice if there was one more gift to unwrap that was forgotten in the rush.


So I’ve been listening to Christmas music.  In January.  I’ve left my Pandora Classic Christmas music station on, and it’s been like with all the noise of other Christmassy stuff muted til next November, God’s voice has a chance with me.

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