When Mistakes Have Been Made and You Don’t Know What to Say

Hmmm… Well…Ahem…(Can you picture me looking down and scuffling the dirt with the toe of my shoe?)  A lot going on this past week on so many fronts…

Mistakes have been made.

I’ve made them, you’ve made them, we all have.

Some have bigger consequences than others.

Ironically, part of the text for John’s sermon yesterday included these words about Peter on the Mt. of Transfiguration “He did not know what to say…”  This comes right after “Peter said…” (Mark 9) Continue reading

6 Sentences Jesus Followers Need to Learn to Say in the Midst of Controversy

It’s an unusually cool morning in Florida and the wind is blowing.  As I rode my bike to Starbucks I thought of one day when Katy was little and came in from outside.  She said, “Mommy, the wind struggles me!”

Yep, Katester, the wind has been struggling us this week.  Winds of uncertainty and criticism and emotion and drama all stirred up out of a desire to serve God well and make wise choices that honor Him in a complex world.

Wind-struggling weeks (that we all have) are made more difficult when the decisions we’re making are public and impact thousands of people, like the one the World Vision Board announced this week. The stakes go up and it seems that no one wants to let any critical thought go un-tweeted or un-commented or un-updated.  Even the headline of a balanced article is mis-leading and inflammatory.

We, as Jesus followers, love (I love!) black and white.  We love clear-cut, “thus sayeth the Lord”, and “Bam! Take that you spawn of Satan!”  Ok, maybe not the last, but some responses feel that way – gleeful in their self-righteous put-downs.  And is this what Jesus desires of someone following Him?

This morning Michael Hyatt had an excellent post on 5 difficult sentences leaders need to learn to say.  It made me think that there are several sentences we Jesus-followers need to learn to say in the midst of controversial conversations (what the Bible calls “disputable matters”). Continue reading

When You Read Scripture That’s Perfect for Someone Else

Because I like variety in my devotional life (or more honestly, because I’m spiritually ADD), I occasionally switch up my morning routine and end up like the little kid who picks one cookie off the tray, takes a bite and then puts it back in favor of another.  This can result in times when I’m a bit scattered, trying to decide if I should do this Bible study or that devotional, or Scripture memory or whatever.

Currently as I was scavenging, looking for a new “cookie” I landed on a Bible Reading Plan of themes of Scripture from the YouVersion app.  Right now the theme I’m on is judgment.  I know, you’re thinking “That sounds like so much FUN!!”, right?

Anyway, this morning I was dutifully reading Isaiah 5 as prescribed by THE PLAN, and I thought, “Wow!  This is like THE WORD for those Israeli Settlers, illegally cheating Palestinians out of their land!  Whoa Nellie!” Continue reading

How You are Part of Her Story

Last night we arrived at our destination on the Zambezi river in Zambia in time to see this sunset while zebras grazed behind us.

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This afternoon as I write this I am sitting under an umbrella on the same deck, looking at a herd (a pod? a bunch? John and I can’t decide and we don’t have internet access to Google it) of Hippos in the water about a hundred yards out.  Every once in awhile (of course never when my camera is trained on them) one will lift his head high, open his mouth and roar.  How crazy is that??!!

Quite a contrast to our day yesterday when we bumped and lurched for hours in a Land Rover over narrow dusty paths through the bush in an area called Moyo.  Over tracks not made for vehicles, but worn through the grass instead by the toughened bare feet of our sponsored children, cared for by World Vision.  We had the privilege of visiting all three of our precious kids for the second time in two and a half years yesterday. 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

Afraid of Getting it Wrong and Getting it Right

It’s Fearless Friday and the half-marathon is tomorrow.  I have a lot to be afraid about.  You may too.  But I also have lots to celebrate.  Among my blessings are so many of you who have supported, encouraged and prayed for me.  Thank you to the moon!   Since the half-marathon is about raising money for clean water through World Vision, today I want to share a related fear and some good news.

I’m a first born.  A Rule Follower.  I hate “getting it wrong”!  I get so embarrassed by my mistakes.

When someone dies, I’m scared to death of saying the wrong thing, inadvertently being “that person” who was somehow insensitive or oblivious.

When helping those in need it’s the same.  Over the years I’ve found that there are so many ways that well-meaning folks (Read: “me”) can cause more problems than they solve, creating dependency, or taking away dignity, or upsetting the country’s economy or…

Also, poverty is overwhelming.  Injustice seems intractable.  Often I just want to cover my ears, shut my eyes and yell “Lalalalala…”  The problems are so big it’s hard to know where to start.  When we do DO something we don’t want to hear it’s the wrong thing!  So it was with fear and trepidation that I started reading the book, Toxic Charity recently.

One of the criticisms the author, Robert Lupton levels is at organizations who create dependency instead of equipping and empowering those in need.  We need to do with and not just for others.

As I read this terrific book, yes, there were some little things that I hadn’t thought about that I need to change, but there was good news too. Continue reading

Why are You Doing the Hard Thing?

33 days from today is the Half-Marathon.  13.1 miles.  It’s hard thing.  But everyone reading this is doing a hard thing.  Or a lot of hard things.

This was the text I sent to Katy and Maggie the other day after I ran.  It is similar to many other texts I’ve sent over the past six months.

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I questioned myself once again, “WHY the heck am I doing this?”

Just like you may ask yourself,

“Why did I commit to lead this small group?

Why do I keep tutoring this under-resourced kid who doesn’t seem to care?

Why should I stay in this hard marriage?

Why did I move here?

Why am I serving on this board?

Why did I start this business?…”

“Why did I choose to do this hard thing?” Continue reading

Fear, Small Things, and a Big God

One of the ways God reassures me is to say “do not despise the day of small things.”*  He uses the ordinary, and the overlooked, and the seemingly inconsequential.  And even the things He does with these can go overlooked.  Unnoticed.

I used to think that if it was “of God” it had to be big and bold and dramatic and flashy.  Like a super hero.  But then I learned that if he can use flour and oil, and widows, and dropouts, there’s hope for me.  I’m thankful for that, because my life is mostly a life of “small things”.

But lately I’ve been convicted that I’ve gone too far.  I’m settling for too little. I’m settling for a small god, instead of the real thing.   It’s not me who’s flashy and dramatic, but I can trust in God to do amazing things through me, beyond my ability.

Sometimes He wants to do big things.

Continue reading

Persevering through Partway to Somewhere

This is not a post about running.  Not exactly.

But it starts there, so bear with me.

The hardest point in my runs (read: slow slog) these days is between mile 2.5 and 3.  After the newness of the run has worn off and before I’m in any kind of comfortable (read: muscle numbing) rhythm.  Way before the end is in sight.  And let’s not even talk about the possibility of the “runner’s high”.  That’s a cruel myth perpetuated by sadistic marathoners to make the rest of us feel like failures.

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This is the point that is the most uncomfortable.  When I most want to stop.  When the voices taunting “This is STUPID!” are the loudest.

Instead of “I-think-I-can-I-think-I-can” on repeat in my brain it’s “I’m-gonna-die-I’m-gonna-die”.

Continue reading

When God Invites You to do a Big Thing and Fear says You Can’t

I had a lunch meeting a few weeks ago.  The purpose was for me to help a World Vision guy do some brainstorming and networking.  At least that’s what I thought.

I’m pretty creative.  I’m good at ideas.  I’m good at making work for other people.  It’s a gift.  My family likes to say “God loves you and Laura has a wonderful plan for your life.”  So I was feeling good about meeting with Bradley (the guy) and giving him some ideas.  That is until he finished telling his story, turned to me and said, “I want you to run a half-marathon with Team World Vision to raise money for clean water in Zambia.”

What the what?!  Not much surprises me.  Even less than that leaves me speechless. This did.

I don’t run.  Unless I’m running from a bear.

I’ve tried running.  I hate it.  Truly hate it.  Bike, walk, play tennis, golf?  Absolutely!  Run? Ugh, please no!

As I reflected on the possibility, Fear whispered in my ear:

  • What if you really can’t do it?  What if you don’t finish?
  • What if you let people down?
  • What if you don’t raise any money?
  • What if you don’t motivate others to run?
  • What if you hurt yourself and it compromises your ability to enjoy other things?

Honestly, one of the loudest whispers was:  This will be a painful, grueling boatload of work and you don’t want to do it.

But Bradley said three things in that meeting that made me think maybe his idea was so crazy that God might actually be in it and I needed to pay attention.

1. He said this run is for clean water, something I’m passionate about.  Dirty water is the leading killer of kids under 5 in the world.

IMG_1977In Zambia two years ago I danced with women as a well was dug and fresh water gushed out.  They sang “Come and see what God has done.”  The old woman next to me spoke in wonder “He saw us. He answered our prayers.”  Wouldn’t be incredible to part of an answer to someone’s prayers?

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2.  80% of the people who run on Team World Vision are not runners (as in, never done it).  And that’s both scary and inspiring.  When Bradley speaks to churches his theme is fear not.  My one word for this year is Fearless, the word I’m trying to live into.  As he spoke I sensed a little nudge.  Perhaps this is a tailor made (albeit crazy) invitation to step into something scary that God desires to use.

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3.  My first response was unequivocal.  There is no way I can do this.  (Did I mention I. Don’t. Run. Ever.?).  But maybe that’s an additional reason why this might be of God.  Perhaps, besides providing water, there is something He wants to show me of Himself in this hard thing.  His power perfected in my weakness.

There are many days of “small things”, but sometimes God invites us into something big and hard and seemingly impossible.

I think, in this case, God’s answer to Fear is “What if I run with you and do something bigger in and through you for others than you think is possible?”

So, although I have visions of my daughter (who may be running with me), dragging my lifeless body across the finish line, October 26th (Lord willing) I will be running (or shuffling) the Twin Cities Monster Dash half-marathon.  You can join me running here! They have a great training program – starting from zero.

You can donate here.