About Ellen and Giant Space Acorns and Choosing Life

It’s One Word Friday!  How’s it been going for you?  Has your word changed your life or do you have a hard time remembering what it is?  Here are some of my recent thoughts on Choose Life.

Text message convo with daughter Maggie…

Me: Guess who I just ran into at the pool??!!!

Maggie: Ellen???!!

Me: Close, but no.  Not this time.

Maggie and I love Ellen (Degeneres) and are pretty sure she wants to meet us and be best friends.  We also made it to the finals auditioning for the Amazing Race as a team.                        And we’ve visited the giant space acorn (which is probably on your bucket list too).

IMG_2586

All that to say, we set our sites pretty high.  No halfway stuff for us.

I figure, in John 10:10 Jesus didn’t say, “I have come so that your life might be kind of okay.”

Then the other day I was having a conversation with my husband (small caveat: it may have been 6 am and he may still have been half-asleep when we had this conversation).

Me: Honey, Light of my Life, what are some exciting things you’d like to do in the next 10 years?

Husband: “Road trips.  Like up the coast of Oregon and Washington State.”

Me: Road trips???!!  NOOOOOOO!  Wrong answer!  (You think you know a person!)

Husband:  What are some exciting things YOU’D like to do in the next 10 years?

Me: Hike Machu Pichu, teach with you in Africa, hang glide in Switzerland, are the first things that come to mind.

Husband:  Well, whatever you die of it won’t be boredom.

True, but as I look back over my “high expectations” I think, how many of them are eternal?  How many of them reaaaaallly matter?

When we “choose Life” we’re choosing to live into all of God’s abundance, but He also warns us about investing in what won’t last.  And then there’s that whole annoying thing about losing our life in order to gain it.  And the reminder to “live a life worthy of our calling.”

I love it when choosing life includes my passport, or chocolate, or doing anything outside preferably with really exciting people.  But what about when choosing life means choosing inconvenience or grace, or discipline or service?

When I’m not sure, this reminder helps:

Choosing life will always be consistent with choosing love.

Choose life = Choose love.

So today I’m thinking about the “Life” I’m choosing.   What about you?  How’s it going?

unnamed

To All Those Who Didn’t Show

I wrote yesterday about the waiting on the Fool’s Bench at Easter.

As it turned out, I didn’t sit.  I stood near the door to church in the Great Room, craning my neck, looking over the shoulder of anyone I was talking to, hoping to see the shaved bald head of my next-door-neighbor and his blond wife walk in.

I prayed and prayed.  I saved seats at two (count ’em, two!) services, which did NOT endear me to those who did come and were tackling others for a spot, practically paying hard cash money so they could sit inside the sanctuary instead of in the overflow rooms.

It didn’t happen.  Yes, the other friend did show at an earlier service and I pray that she felt totally hogswaggled by the enormity of God’s love for her, but it’s hard not to focus on the ones who didn’t come.  photo-109

I’ve been thinking about them…All the friends and neighbors and co-workers and prodigal family members you invited to church this Sunday.  Or last.  Or any one of a bazillion times. 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

What Really Breaks God’s Heart?

I hate it when people go on mission trips and come home all “Oooh, you couldn’t possibly understand it, but we went to Abracadabra and Bibbidybobbityboo and that’s in the southeastern corner of the district of Allacazam in the country of Boolaboola (don’tcha know) and it was AMAZING!  The poor people there need so much but are so full of joy!  We need to help them and you should have been there!” 

And those who haven’t been think, “Well, I wasn’t there.” And eyes glaze over and they think “No, I couldn’t possibly understand, and what could I do even if I did understand and you’re being a little obnoxious right now.” 

All that to say that as I post from Africa I’m going to try not to do that and I pray you find these thoughts relevant for you.  

There is a much repeated prayer in World Vision, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”  There’s a lot that I know breaks God’s heart around the world.  Obvious stuff like poverty, injustice, violence, corruption…

Whenever we travel in the developing world and we pray that prayer, our go-to response is to be sad and compassionate and prayerful about what we’re seeing.  We want to know how we can partner with God to bring His kingdom to every corner of the world.  And that’s a good thing mostly, I think.

But poverty isn’t just “out there” or “over there”.

It’s here too. In me.  Poverty of spirit, of humility, of understanding, of awareness. Continue reading

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.

IMG_3001

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.

Continue reading

What Fear Can Learn from Liam Neeson

Can we all just agree?  Liam Neeson’s got serious game.  He’s not afraid of anyone as long as he’s got a cell phone.

In the absence of similar skills, approximately 47 million parents of high school and college students have made their kids watch at least the first half hour of the movie, Taken, in which “Liam’s” teenage daughter is snatched by bad guys who have (really) bad plans for her.  For the past few years parents have been sending daughters out into a dangerous world with the battle cry, “Remember TAKENNNNN!!”

And now, with a Part Two coming out, this was a tweet I read the other day.

All this Liam Neeson tough guy stuff has been on my mind because in almost every conversation I’ve had lately there has been an unwanted intruder.  His name is Fear, and he seems to be lurking, wanting to take me, my friends and family to places we don’t want to go.

Continue reading

Who’s Dancing With You?

Taking a little August Sabbatical so I thought I’d repost one of the most popular entries from this past year.  I’m glad you liked it!

really admire my husband.

He’s brilliant and wise and athletic and better than me at everything.

Except maybe one thing.

When we were dating, we never danced.                                                                                 And when we got married we didn’t have dancing at our reception.                                    And when we went to our first wedding reception as a married couple he didn’t ask me to dance and I cried and was sure he didn’t really love me.

I wrote recently that some friends and I have wrangled our husbands into taking dance lessons, and I’ve finally discovered why this has not been part of our life together up til now.  I’m not gonna sugar coat it.  I’m no Ginger Rogers, but John is truly bad.   I don’t understand it.  How can someone who’s so coordinated in so many other areas be so…not…in this area?  Sometimes we just have to stop trying because we’re laughing so hard.

It’s one thing to have a humility thrust upon you.  You make a mistake and have to apologize.  Like BP.  Or the captain of the cruise ship in Italy.  Or Lindsay Lohan.  You’re given a job to do and things don’t go well.  You’re humbled.

But to choose to step into a situation where you know you’re weak, vulnerable, open to ridicule?  That takes love.

Continue reading

The Bad Anniversary When we Gave Up and What it Has to do With You

This is a story about me.  But it’s also about you.  Whether you’re married or single.

Today is our 29th wedding anniversary.  And 28 years ago today was a bad day.

Our one year anniversary.

We were with family and friends at a cabin, high on a pine-filled shore overlooking a pristine lake in northern Wisconsin.

Continue reading

Haircuts and Jesus

The other day I was getting my hair cut by Mary who’s cut it for several years.  We’ve become friends of sorts (as much as you can when you only talk in the beauty shop every 5 weeks) and have shared quite a bit about our lives.  I’m not positive where she is in terms of a relationship with Jesus.  I think she believes, but maybe has not chosen to nurture that relationship or be part of a faith community, or think much about faith and how it could impact her life.  That said, she’s a really good person.  🙂

Anyway, I was thinking after I left, “If she didn’t know I was a Christ-follower (which she does), would ANYTHING in my tone, actions, or reactions, or the content of what I said to her seem different than any other woman who sits in her chair every day?”   I mean, how Jesus-y is reading People magazine and talking about movies for Pete’s sake?

That got me thinking about a woman who was in my life many years ago…an informal mentor who had a huge impact on me.  A Jesus-like woman who epitomized the verse “Let your speech be always with grace.”  Her name was (and is) Coke (short for Colleen) Evans. It’s probably been 20 years since I’ve seen her.  Even more than the impact of her words, I carry with me “snapshots”…memories of times when her posture and her expression and her actions shouted “grace” with surround sound clarity.

Snapshot #1.  We were at a huge church party in a private home.  People helped themselves to food in a buffet line and then spread throughout the large colonial home.  I was having a blast.  So many fun people and lively conversations.  I had gotten my food and was walking down a hallway when I passed a tiny den.  There were only two people in the room sitting on a small couch in deep conversation.  One was an extremely  unattractive, and socially awkward woman.  And sitting next to her was Coke, looking at her with love, hanging on this woman’s every word as if she was the most important woman in the universe.

Like Jesus if He had been at the party.

Snapshot #2.  There was a concert at church in the downstairs fellowship hall.  As I walked in from the back I noticed the man who was the most bitter, mean-spirited man I knew.  And he was a vocal critic of Coke’s husband, the senior pastor.  But there she was, full of grace, sitting next to him, and leaning in with love in her eyes, caring for him, and listening with single-minded attention. 

Like Jesus, if He had come to the concert.

Here’s what strikes me as I think back about Coke, and ask my own question about any possible Jesus-y difference Mary might notice in me:  as much as Coke spoke words of grace, it was more powerful that her whole demeanor was one of loving, gracious attention.  When she was with you it was like you were the most important person in her world She would lean in, look you deep in the eyes, lay a gentle hand on your arm and treat you like you were of infinite worth, even though the rest of world might be ready to write you off.  More than her words, Coke had a posture of grace.  And that’s what made her different.

Kind of like Jesus.

Today I’m asking myself again, “Is there a difference in my life marked by grace that anyone would notice and think of Jesus?”  What about you?

Who’s a “Coke” in your life?