5 Questions About…Risk

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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

What to do When You’re Stuck, part 2

Tuesday (yes, I’m a little off schedule with the holiday weekend) I wrote about the universal experience of feeling stuck from time to time.  For a week, or a month, or maybe you feel like you’re living a “stuck” life.

I shared some things I’ve been learning and trying to apply from Nehemiah who never acted without praying, and never prayed without acting.  Like peanut butter and jelly, prayer and action were inseparable in Nehemiah’s life as he got the Israelites unstuck and lead them in re-building the walls around Jerusalem.

But it turns out there was more.  Instead of pb & j, it was more like a BLT.  There was a third distinguishing characteristic in Nehemiah’s life – praise.

Over and over again he acknowledges dependence on God’s character – His power, His help, His care.  Nehemiah doesn’t lose sight of who’s God and who’s NOT.  He prays on behalf of the people “whom You redeemed by YOUR great strength and YOUR mighty hand.”

He reminds others “our God will fight for us” and says “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome…”  He tells others about “the gracious hand of God” repeatedly, and acknowledges the work is done “with the help of our God.”

So…PRAY, ACT, PRAISE, REPEAT.  But what if this “magic” formula doesn’t work in 52 days like it did for Nehemiah?

Sometimes I believe we stay stuck because God is at work “unsticking” other stuff in us that we’re not aware needs unsticking.  Character stuff that may not be our priority, but is His.  Like the stubborn leftover egg in a frying pan, He scrapes away.Unknown

What if our prayers in these seasons included, “Lord, help me not just to obsess on getting unstuck, but for as long as I’m here, show me what You want to form in me.  Help me to be present to You in each moment.”

Our friend, Steve Hayner, is “stuck” in a season of scary, debilitating cancer.  He is beautifully living out a life with similar character qualities to Nehemiah.  The other day he wrote this:

 In J.B. Phillips’ translation of the New Testament, he renders Romans 5:1-5 this way: 

1-2 Since then it is by faith that we are justified, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through [Christ] we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future.

3-5 This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us. Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us.


These were great verses to wake up to this morning.  Life is lived in the grace of Jesus through and through–whether the grace is obvious in our immediate circumstances or not. With Jesus at work in our lives, God’s “good” is always being done and we always continue to grow and to be transformed.
Have you been in a situation of feeling “stuck” over a long season?  What do you feel like God was forming in you?

One Word and God’s Word

As you read this I’m in Florida for a long weekend.  Ostensibly for a fund-raiser for World Vision, but let’s be honest, I’ll be with friends and the temperature will be above 30 degrees farenheit.  I’m not suffering for Jesus here.


“Choosing life” is easy with beauty all around you.  Vibrant color, warm pavement under bare feet, up-lifting conversations.  But this week, living in the left-hand picture hasn’t been all Bougainvillea, sunshine, and Calamari.  Some experiences felt dismissive, some choices by others that felt unjust.  Not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but a little bumpy nevertheless. The kind of thing many, many people experience daily for years and years.

How can we not deny the “death” parts, but still choose life in healthy, non-Pollyanna ways?  Still keep perspective? Continue reading

When God Talks Crazy to You

There’s this homeless guy that I see many days.

He hangs out at the end of the ramp from the main highway near where I live.

He has a backpack and a cardboard sign.

He keeps regular hours.  Basically 9:00-5:00 as best I can tell.  Every day.

You know, like a real job.

This is a little confusing to me. I’ve often thought I should take the time to park and go ask him if he wants help applying for a job at one of the many businesses right near his spot.

I keep McDonald’s gift cards in my car that I give him sometimes when the light is red.

And I talk to him.  I’ve asked his name, but I can’t remember it.  Of course I sometimes forget the names of people I’ve met 12 times, but still, I’m not proud that I can’t remember homeless guy’s name.

Last Sunday I was driving to church with John’s sport coat and a nice black shirt in the car with me.

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How Costco is Soul-shaping

Sunday I went to Costco for hamburgers and came home with a vacuum cleaner.

I’d like to think it was my reward for surviving the Costco parking lot without committing murder or at least swearing, but maybe not so much.

My experiences at Costco have gotten me to thinking about this post from last December that I needed to remember in July…

I was maneuvering laboriously, with stops and starts, through the parking lot at Costco yesterday, thinking for the millionth time that the Costco parking lot is either an outer ring of hell or a brilliant opportunity for spiritual formation.  

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Do you have a “Parade” Home?

I’m a house person.  I love them.  I love people who can create warm and welcoming environments where lively conversation happens and memories are made.

I love snooping around houses on the “Parade of Homes” tour in the spring and fall.  And by that I mean coveting and taking pictures and pretending someday I’ll actually have the money to create similarly lovely rooms.

But I’m also critical (as if I had a design degree, which I don’t).

The problem, in my mind, is that most houses are too divided up.

John says I never saw a wall I didn’t want to knock down.  And we’ve knocked down a wall or two in homes that we’ve owned.  These were messy propositions and the process left us feeling uncomfortable and unsettled.

For one season the microwave was in the study and there was a 4 ft. square hole in the floor of the family room that I stepped through, almost ending up in the basement.  A tad disconcerting.

This is a house I ride by on most days.  They’ve been working on it for what seems like at least 37 years.  First I watched them demolish the previous house.  Then cart off the rubble.  Then excavate and dig and pour a foundation and slowly, slowly begin to re-build.

If I were the owners I’d be going crazy.  I’d be so ready to settle for the quick version.  A little less attention to detail.

When I ride by I think of this quote by C.S. Lewis:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house.

At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to?

The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.

You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

I’ve realized lately that there are some walls in my life that I’ve made load-bearing that weren’t meant to be.  And by that I mean some relationships.  I’ve expected them to bear the weight that only Jesus is meant to bear.

And they’ve come crashing down.

In His knocking about, Jesus has removed some relational supports that I really valued.  More than I should, perhaps.  Load-bearing walls that I was depending on too much to give me worth, identity…

Like a tiny hypnotic voice we’re not really conscious of, the whisper sometimes goes:  “If this person who’s talented, or hip, wise, or influential or popular values my friendship, or wants to date little ol’ me, then maybe I’m just all that too!  Maybe I’m actually more talented or hip, or wise, or influential, or popular than I feared.  I really am ok!”

And if we actually were aware of it, or heard it out loud we might say “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard!”

But it’s subtle.

And then the demolition process feels kind of like stepping on an old barn ladder rung and having it snap.  All of a sudden you’re left hanging by one hand and the shock is a little scary and anger- producing and you’re thinking, “What just happened??”

But God whispers, “That friendship wasn’t meant to hold all your weight.  And it wasn’t meant to define your worth.  Only I am.  And I think you’re spectacular.  No matter what.  And your house is gonna be a lot more beautiful when I’m done with it.”

Can you relate?  Is God “knocking about” in your “house”?

The Spiritual Discipline of Plan B

Ice cubes.  6 small potatoes.  A get-well card.

Sometimes in line at the grocery store don’t you feel like the check-out folks are wondering, “What’s she really up to??”

In this case, each item represented “Plan B” on a day that screamed “I live a PLAN B LIFE!” in big and small ways.

  • The ice cubes were for our broken ice maker.
  • The potatoes for a recipe gone wrong.
  • The card for a friend having a double mastectomy.

But this was just a small glimpse of bigger realities of disappointments and losses that got me asking questions like:

  • Lord, why is everyone else always in control and why do I never get my way?  (Clearly no Theresa of Avila here!)
  • Where are You in this and what are You trying to teach me?  Submission?  Humility?  Trust in your redemptive power? (Could I have Door 2 instead please?)
  • Is there anyone not living a “Plan B” life?  (Hard for me to think of anyone, but then I didn’t really want to think about anyone else cuz this was all about ME!)
  • How did Your Bible guys handle Plan B’s?  (Moses, David, Abraham, Paul…wow, a lot of Plan B’s)

Somehow, the most important Plan B discipline for the Bible guys seemed to be leaning in.  Not understanding necessarily.  Not having 1-2-3 answers.  But having the faith to say, “I choose to believe in you, God, more than this disappointment.”

Perhaps the spiritual discipline of Plan B involves giving up the illusion of control…giving up trying to write our own story and letting God write His story through us.

Or this…One line stood out in my Bible reading yesterday morning…”Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?…How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?” (Mt.7)  I wonder how often God’s bread just looks like a stone to me because I think I know better than Him how my good gift should appear.  Part of the discipline of Plan B seems to be trusting in God’s goodness...His identity even when we can’t see or understand His activity.

Clearly I don’t have this figured out.  This is just me, wrestling with God after a Plan B day in a Plan B life.

I like to have a plan for everything.  And like all people, I like the plan to go my way.  Plan B is not my strong suit, but maybe it is actually my sweet spot (and yours), because it puts me where God wants me, needing to lean into Him.  For His grace.  His presence.  His power.  His understanding.

What’s your Plan B situation?  What are you learning in it about spiritual discipline?

A resource you might want to pick up if you’re struggling with this is Pete Wilson’s book titled Plan B!

When Practice becomes part of Personality

I am a pray-er, but I don’t feel like I’m a very good one.  I don’t keep lists of prayer requests for others or date them or write down answers when they come, and I feel guilty that I pray on the fly a lot.  I journal prayers, but honestly they’re pretty self-centered.  I think I’m inconsistent in my intensity and devotion to this practice.

The thing is, I (and I think many of us) compartmentalize prayer like a word picture I read recently.  We can see prayer like little squares of syrup in a waffle that don’t spill over into other squares.  Prayer is in this square, and not that square.  We’re precise.  We follow guidelines.  We’re, dare I say, stingy with our syrup.

But I have the privilege of being friends with a man who is a drench-the-waffle-with-syrup-and-have-it-sog-up-everything kind of pray-er.  Literally, anytime and ANYWHERE you see him, he will ALWAYS say, “Let’s have a prayer.”  He prayed with a friend of ours over the broccoli in the produce section of the grocery store.  He huddled up with a bunch of half-dressed men in the locker room at the pool.  He jogged around our church praying for us when we first moved to Minnesota.  He prays with our daughters in the middle of a crowded room, oblivious to all around him.

Here’s the thing.  For Roger, prayer is not a practice.  Not a thing he does.  Not a square of his waffle to be filled with syrup.  It’s part of who he is.  Because who he is is someone deeply in love with and constantly in conversation with his heavenly Father.

Who Roger shows me someone with…

  • A posture of humility and dependence on God.  Someone whose life says “My God is big and I am small.”
  • An understanding of the character of God – His power, mercy, sovereignty
  • perspective – an affirmation of who is ultimately in control.

Roger is about 587 years old, so he’s had lots of time to practice, but I wonder, at what point did this practice become a part of his personality?

What are ways you’ve found to incorporate prayer into the moments of your day?

Labor of Love?

I’ve never heard either of my parents swear, but I have many memories of my mom, frustrated with a task, saying “I’m gonna swear.  I’m gonna swear! Close your ears kids!”                                                                                                                                                She never did, but she threatened to.  A lot.

There are some things that tempt a person to swear more than others. For me, the job of untangling Christmas lights brings out the worst in me.  I spent hours doing it this weekend, growling under my breath:

1.  “I’m sure this must be a job people have to do in Hell.”

2.  “If God really loved me I’d be rich enough to buy new lights every year.”

I was muttering, and resenting my husband who was off doing “spiritual” things, having “spiritual” conversations with colleagues, while I was relegated to “unspiritual” homey decorating chores.

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