Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Dear Comparison,

I’ve decided it’s time.  I’m breaking up with you.

No, it’s not me, it’s you.

And no, we can’t still be friends.

You seduced me by whispering sweet nothings in my ear about “better than”.  You flattered me with “friends”, “followers” or awards, “likes”, “favorites”…

But you’re a two-faced lover and now I see the real you.  Those sweet whispers easily morph into ugly taunts of “not as _____ as”.  Subtle accusations that lead to envy and discouragement and an unhealthy soul. Continue reading

The Words you Hear

This past weekend my husband John and I preached together at our church.  It’s always such an overwhelming and…sobering (?), scary (?) privilege to preach and ask for God’s voice to drown out anything of “us” that might distract.

We spoke on Mary and finding joy in the midst of any circumstances.  That was all fine, but then God totally messed with me.

In our sermon I shared about an experience I had had the night before.  I went to a dinner celebrating the birthday and an anniversary of sorts for a dear friend of mine.  Each of us gathered there brought a word or words to share that communicated some of the incredible value our friend has brought into our lives.  As we shared, our words were written in gold marker on a glass hurricane with a candle inside to be a reminder to her when she lights it, that words like beautiful, effervescent, intentional, and wise advisor describe how God is using her in the world.  It was a privilege to speak these words of truth to my friend.

In our sermon I said that most people don’t get to hear words of value and affirmation spoken over them by friends like that, but God desires to whisper His words of love to us every minute.  Mary’s joy and peace came from the fact that she knew who she was and whose she was.

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Top 3 Secrets to Winning the Name Game

Ever see the Antiques Road Show?  You know where people bring in stuff from their attic?

The chair they bought at a garage sale, or an ugly picture they’ve never liked that’s been handed down in their family and they ask the experts how much the item is really worth.  People are usually surprised when items are worth much more than they think.

I’m going to let you in on a secret.  In church world, we may not have antique art, but there’s a valuable skill that’s worth a fortune in spiritual collateral that few people talk about.

The real way to be a superstar in church world isn’t jewels in your crown from selfless serving, or stars on your Awana scripture memory chart, or how many people you’ve “prayed the prayer” with.

What’s most valuable in church world?



More specifically, name recall.  It’s Olympic gold.  It’s Sampson’s hair.  It’s Kryptonite in the hands of Lex Luther only used for good.

Here’s how it goes…

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The One that Jesus Loves (More than Me)

Confession:  Every once in awhile (read: way too often), I look at ______, or _______, or _______  and I compare myself and come up short and decide I’m going to throw in the towel.

No, nothing drastic, but just I’m just going to quit “showing up”.

Jesus clearly has gifted “them” more, is using “them” more powerfully, loves “them” more.

I decide, yep, I’m going to give up writing or parenting, or setting goals, or mentoring or exercising or speaking or being available, or risking…

This has prompted me to question, “What is it that inhibits and what is it that inspires us to live our unique story?”

What motivates you to become a better version of yourself?  To celebrate the work God wants to do uniquely through you?

And conversely, What is destructive to your true self – the self that finds meaning in being a beloved child of God?

This is not a new struggle and I know I’m not alone. Can I get an “Amen!”?

As I’ve been talking with God about this yelling “Lord help me figure this out! Now!”  He brought to mind this little exchange in John 21 (remember John is writing):

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them…When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”  Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”


You know how John has that irritating way of referring to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved”?  I wonder how that made Peter feel.  Was he tempted to buy into the lie that John was the ONE (the only one) Jesus loved?  More than anyone else?  Was he tempted to compare and be blinded to the ways that Jesus loved him and wanted to use his unique gifts, temperament and experience?

Jesus basically says, “Quit looking at his his life, his “likes”, invitations, followers, hits, gifts, retweets, his family, his successes or failures and look at Me.

Because I have a story I want to write through you that I can’t write through him.”

I believe Jesus says that to us too.

And so we can say: “I’m the one that Jesus loves.  And so is he.  Or she.

God has given me a unique voice and a valuable story.

And God has given them a different voice and different valuable story.”

You have gifts and relationships and experiences and a platform that I don’t have.  That no one else has in the exact same combination.

I pray you’ll move into this Monday celebrating that you’re the one Jesus loves and is using in a way that He can use no one else.

What’s one thing you can celebrate about your unique voice today?

On Stopping and More Tortillas

I stopped and talked to the homeless guy yesterday.

Yeah, that guy I’ve written about before. Ever present.  With the sign.

I drove up the ramp off the highway and the light was green so I didn’t have to stop and sit in the car next to him and his sign that reminds me he’s hungry and homeless while I wait.

I didn’t have to stare straight ahead, pretending I didn’t notice him.

The light was green.

The light said “go”

But I sensed the Spirit saying, “Stop.”

Ugggghhh.  I had a 23 second argument with God.

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A Conversation about Flour and Oil

Monday I wrote about how God has used the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarepath to teach me.  Did it sound like a piece of cake?

Not so much.

Here’s an honest conversation I had with the Lord recently.

Me: Lord, I’m ticked…really disappointed and discouraged.  I kind of want to throw my handful of flour back in your face and call it a day.

Honestly, Lord??  What I REALLY want is for You to take my flour and oil and make a ginormous fancy-shmancy cake worthy of the Cake Boss, that people will “ooh” and “aahh” over.

But instead it seems like my flour and oil concoction usually turns out looking more like an ordinary, boring tortilla.

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THE Question, Part 1

Our daughter, Maggie, and her boyfriend, Austin, have been visiting for this hot 4th of July week.  Woohoo!  It’s been wonderful time of bikes and boats and barbecues.

For Austin, who’s never been in Minnesota before that’s meant one-thousand-four-hundred-and-ninety-eight “first” conversations getting to know new people.  Fortunately he’s patient and gracious and delightful.

But those “good-to-meet-ya” conversations aren’t easy for all of us.  Because of  THE question.

You know how it goes…You meet someone new and practically before you can say your name is Rumplestiltskin, the next question is, “So, what do you do?”

Rephrased: Just how important are you?

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How to Make the Top 10 List

I read another list last week.  Twenty Women Leaders Under 40 You should Know.

There are so many of these lists it’s hard to keep them straight.  But in case you’re wondering, I’m not on this list and you probably aren’t either.  Especially if you’re a guy.

I’m not under 40.  I don’t speak to thousands of people.  I’m not beautiful or edgy or cool or a dynamic leader.  I don’t have hordes of “followers”.  I don’t belong on the list.  I had no remote expectation or even awareness that there WAS a list til I stumbled across it.  But still…I felt less than when I read it.  Can you relate?

There are some great women on that list!  Some of them I consider to be friends and I’m thrilled that they are being affirmed, but still…after I felt “small” in comparison, I got angry.  I got angry and I considered titling this post, “Lists are from the Devil”.  But then I thought that was a tad dramatic and would make me sound like one of those crazy “fundies”.  Honestly though, I think that title would be pretty accurate.

What do lists like this accomplish?  Twenty women feel special and important and the millions of people not on THE LIST who are making small courageous, sacrificial choices, sometimes just “showing up” each day, are tempted to believe the lie that Satan loves to whisper.

YOU know the whisper: “They matter, but you don’t.”

So, I’m publishing my own list.  My list is made up of the 7 billion people in the world who will never be on a list that is Tweeted about or written up in a newspaper or magazine.  My list is The Top 7 Billion People You Should Know About.

My list includes Betsy who has MS, but painfully crawls out of bed each day with the help of a caregiver and prays for others in our church.

And Eric who is 12 and moved here from another country, with English as his 4th language, trying to ignore the taunts of other adolescent boys as he struggles to learn to read.

Rhonda is on my list.  A young woman who moved to Indonesia 20 years ago with her husband and eventually, kids, living sacrificially to serve the Muslim people with the love of Jesus.

And Loveness, Givison, Michael, and Sakina, our World Vision sponsored children in remote parts of the world for whom each day is a mountain of poverty to climb.

There’s Christopher too.  A young man with a good heart who’s stumbling through life, grasping, searching for God though he doesn’t know it.

And you.  You are on my list because wherever you are in the world you need to know you matter.

You may have wounds that no one knows about and challenges that no one sees and you’ll make brave choices and small sacrifices today. You’ll make mistakes too and you’ll fall down and stub your toe but you’ll get back up and keep going.

Yes, keep going.

Bottom line?  I don’t think God is a god of lists (at least not this kind).  Lists seem to be too much like assigning “places of honor at the table”…not exactly a kingdom deal.  So it really it’s no biggie that you’re on “my” list, but maybe the this will make a difference…

“You have searched me, Lord, and you Know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you Lord, know it completely.  You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” Ps. 139:1-5.

If God has a list, you’re on it.  How do you make it?  Just breathe.  And know that you matter.  You are loved.

Me and Joe and the President

Do you ever feel like you’ve accidentally put on Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak?

A few months ago a couple of people made an appointment with me.  I didn’t know what their agenda was.  When we met all they did was ask me questions about a painful experience.  And then they listened.  And asked more questions.  And listened some more.  

They asked, “and then what happened?” and “how did you feel?” and “oh no!” and “what can we do?” like it really made a difference to them.

And here’s the thing.  Yes, what was asked and answered was important, but the most transformative thing for our relationship was that when I walked away I didn’t feel invisible anymore.  It felt like I mattered.   What I thought, what I felt, the pain I had experienced made a difference to them.  Have you had an experience like this?

A few years ago my husband and I had the opportunity to spend some time with former President Clinton in a couple different contexts (no he would not remember my name!).  Regardless of what you think about his politics or his morals, here’s a man who makes people feel like they matter.

We were wrapping up an interview with him when he saw an African American guy with a saxophone that was about 189 years old in a back hallway.  Clinton got so excited asking this guy about the brand of sax he played, and the type he used to play, and the music he liked.  He laughed and they swapped sax stories and he asked questions and really listened.  Clinton was so present it was hard for his handlers to tear him away.  One of the most powerful men in the world.  And he was saying to this man, “I may be the president of the United States, but you matter too.”

This is Joe.

He’s a guy with Down’s Syndrome who has a great smile and a can-do spirit.  He’s the guy who sweeps the stairs at exactly the same time every morning at my health club.  When I first asked his name he looked scared, like he had done something wrong.  When I thank him each day for his great work he always looks a little surprised.  Today I took another step and asked him, “Joe, how long have you worked here?  Do you like your job?”

I’ve noticed Joe.  I’ve tried to let him know he matters.  But how many others do I miss during the day who are longing to be noticed?  Feeling like they’re accidentally wearing and invisibility cloak?

What if Jesus hadn’t looked up to see Zaccheus?  What if He hadn’t taken time to talk to the woman who touched the hem of His robe?

When is a time when someone made you feel like you mattered?  Who are the people you tend to overlook?  Who would feel affirmed if you asked a question and listened?

Are you really Here?

I love this photo I saw recently of a basket at the door to someone’s home.

Be with the friends who are here!”

I love it because it expresses what I desire.  For people who are with me to be truly present and attentive to… ME!

But it’s also convicting, because I’m an ADD, multi-tasking friend and wife who isn’t always “present” to others.

Have you ever been talking to someone on the phone and can hear them typing on their computer while they talk to you?  Or people having coffee with you, texting (even under the table!) at the same time they’re talking to you?  Or you’re in a meeting and someone is surreptitiously checking FB?

Does it make you wonder if you’re that boring?  Or if they’re that important?

I keep thinking of Luke 10 where it says “Martha was distracted“, but “Mary chose what was better.”  Being present to Jesus.  Is technology distracting me from my relationship with Jesus, others, and even myself?

Just this morning as I was reading scripture, and praying, I stopped to text someone I thought of.  Could it have waited?  Absolutely.  I wonder…when we’re not fully present are we really saying to the other (in this case, Jesus)…

  • Someone or something else is more important than you.
  • I am more important than you.
  • Posting, tweeting, texting, being in demand defines my value.

Here’s something that really impacted me this week.  I’m not an “important” person (yeah, yeah, I know I’m important to God, but I mean in a worldly sense).  I’m not famous, but somehow I’ve been privileged to spend time with many people who are.  Leaders who are having a huge impact in the world.  They are smart, articulate, anointed, sought after, and extremely busy.

This past week I was with one of the most gifted, influential teachers of our day, and the thing that struck me the most powerfully was that I never once saw him check his iphone while he was with us.

He wasn’t receiving texts during dinner.

He didn’t interrupt conversations to answer a call.

His eyes didn’t stray around, searching for more “important” people other than who he was talking to.

And he didn’t hurry through the room.  He was truly present to the people he was with.

That in itself is a big deal.  But the question I thought of beyond that was, what does this say about his ability to be present to Jesus?  To not allow the demands, interruptions, requests, distract him from the discipline of being truly with Jesus?  I wonder if these two things are related.

How might the practice of being present to Jesus affect our ability to be present to each other?  And vice versa.  Does practicing being present in one relationship carry over into another?

How can we “Hang up and arrive.” as Jon Acuff says?

Are there times we leave our phone at home?  Days we turn it off?

How much does technology affect your ability to be present to Jesus and others?