5 Questions About…Risk

Photo 50

Sharon is a dear friend who both inspires and intimidates me with her amazingness.  She has guest-posted here before.  I’m so thankful that in the midst of a busy, stressful time, she was willing to share some more of what she’s learning.  Here’s the next in our 5 Questions About…series.

1. Recently you took what must have felt like a huge risk. Can you tell us about it?

Eight months ago, I resigned from a job I had loved and made the leap to running my own business. This happened after an extended season of prayer and discernment, so by the time I made the change, I felt certain it was the right thing to do.

Yes, there were practical risks involved: leaving a certain income, benefits, 401K; losing the familiarity of my office and team. And as a single person, I didn’t have a safety net of a second income, back-up insurance, or a support person to pick up slack in other areas of life. But I was also very clear about why I was making the change: 1) to be faithful to what I understood God was putting in my hands; 2) to learn and grow through a new challenge.

So when I framed it that way, I realized that even if my business failed (and I had to move into my parents’ basement), I would experience God in deeper ways and learn things I wouldn’t otherwise. Continue reading

Ski Jump Decisions

Last night my husband brought up a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad recurring subject that scares me as much and flying off an Olympic ski jump.

The one where he says we really need to think about selling our house because it’s going to cost us too much over the long-haul to live here. Whenever he raises it I either run crying from the room screaming “Over my dead body!”, or cover my ears, shut my eyes and singing “LALALALALA”.  It’s not a decision I want to face.

Last year our daughter and new son-in-law also had a big decision to make.  Maggie had applied to grad school and had the mixed blessing of getting into every school she applied to.  It blew us away.  Who knew?  So it came down to a decision between John’s Hopkins (stay in D.C.), London School of Economics (go), and Berkley (go).

What’s a decision you’re facing right now?  Leave your job?  Go back to school?  Stay in a relationship you’re afraid is unhealthy?  Move? Continue reading

Diving in on Fearless Friday

It’s Fearless Friday and I’m excited to share a post written by Carrie Gleeson, an awesome young leader who is developing disciples and mentoring student leaders on staff at our church.  I’m privileged to call her a friend!


What does it look like to be fearless?

Well in my mind that’s somehow always equated with the high dive at Shady Oak Beach. I’m not even sure if the high dive still exists, but for me, as a kid spending her summers on Minnesota lakes, that was the Mount Everest of feats.


Back in the day, there were 2 docks out in the deep of Shady Oak Lake (yes, it was that dramatic . . . for a 10 year old at least). Both docks stood about 20 feet above the water. One of the docks had a normal diving board. Perched on top of the 2nd dock was the high dive (insert scary, forbidding music here).. This diving board was another 10-15 feet in the air toppling over the surface of this cool Minnesota lake. Continue reading

Learning to Live Fearlessly (guest post)


Sarah Wineland (on the left, with her sister in this picture) is one of my delightfully brave friends.  Actually she was Maggie and Katy’s friend first, but they have generously shared her with me :)!  I asked her to guest post on this Fearless Friday.  Enjoy!

My first brave moment came when I was 13 at a summer camp.  We were whitewater rafting and had stopped at a large jumping rock. Being the timid, quiet child that I was, I didn’t want to jump. A counselor encouraged me to “just try it,” and the experience was exhilarating and indelibly life-changing.  I suddenly realized I couldn’t let fear keep me from experiencing a full life.  Life was meant to be lived vibrantly, and safety wasn’t necessarily the best route. I decided to live more daringly and face my fears head-on.   (Residual effects of this decision have included: eating various bugs, learning to be vulnerable, taking more chances, living in several countries, taking a job doing maintenance on septic tanks, climbing the Grand Teton, and leading worship.)

In my adult life, I haven’t always succeeded at living fearlessly.  I tend to be risk-averse and a people-pleaser, at times avoiding conflict.  Back in December, a friend of mine insisted that I watch this TED talk about vulnerability by Brene Brown, and it sparked something in my brain.  Like my summer camp experience, it reminded me that I live too fearfully, too timidly, in my approach to the world and other people. I needed to find strength to jump off of those proverbial rocks into the river.  So I determined that 2013 would be my year of living fearlessly.  I would aim to do something that scared me at least once a week, with the hope that fearlessness would become a lifestyle.

It started with the little things.   Continue reading

Fear, the Pathway to Your Greatest Potential?

Six months ago when we were sharing our “One Word”, a thoughtful friend sent me these. Tangible reminders of my word.


Whether this is your word for the year or not, a fear most people struggle with is the fear of failure.  The other day I listened to a phenomenal message by Craig Groeschel on this topic and I wanted to pass it along to you.  I hope you’ll be able to listen here because it’s great and has some delightful illustrations, but if you can’t, here are his main points:

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

The Fear of Saying “No”

About a year ago I received an invitation to do something new and scary that would be an adventure. Teaching pastors in rural Africa.  Stretching.  Hard.  Solo.

I had been asking God for invitations, so my first thought was “I need to say ‘yes’.  Jesus followers always say “yes” to invitations to serve those in need, right?

But several details about this ask caused me to pause and ask for time to pray about  it before answering.

I prayed honestly and intensely about this offer for over six months.  I felt torn.  There were specific reasons God brought to mind that led me to believe I should say “no”, but along the way I kept asking, “If I say ‘no’ is it You, or is it really because I’m afraid of taking this risk?”

And “Isn’t God’s will always the hardest thing?”

It was difficult to send the final email saying “Thank you, but no”.

I was afraid of letting down people who needed help.

I was afraid of letting God down.

I was afraid of making a decision that would close all future doors.

If I turned this down maybe I’d discover how dispensable I really am.

As counter as it was to my initial reaction, and as hard as it was, I felt led to say “no” for now.

And then, last night, as I walked into our quiet house alone, out of “nowhere” as clear as everything real, God whispered, “You don’t need to go to Kitale.  I love you.  Period.”

You don’t need to be afraid.

What scares you most about saying “no”?


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?

The Other “F Word”, Part 2

Friday I posted about the other “F word” in our family.

On reflection I think there’s more than one “other”.  There may be a whole slew of other “f words” that lurk around like stealth ninjas ready to take us down.

So here’s number 2.  Fear.

I don’t think I’m a particularly fearful person.  But I might have slept in the car instead of with the bats in a mountain cabin once upon a time.  And Maggie and I might have told the producers of the Amazing Race that snakes were a no-go for us when we were auditioning.

I’ll admit I AM afraid of heights, failure, suffering, looking foolish in public, and dying in an airplane crash to name a few.  But so is everyone, right?

(John, not me, bungee jumping at Victoria Falls, Zambia)

If I’m honest, what I’m really afraid of is losing control.  At least the illusion of control.

Continue reading

The Other “F Word”

One afternoon when Katy was in kindergarten she got off the bus and informed me that she had learned “the f-word.”


She later told us she had also learned the “sh-word”

“Shut up.”

Honestly, in our family the real “f-word” isn’t fart.  And it isn’t another word that might come to mind.

It’s “fine”.

To my mind, “fine” may be the most terrible word in the english language.  And words matter as my friend Sharon always reminds me.

Continue reading