Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Create an Evolution

As I'm nearing completion on my second book and right in the thick of a couple of ambitious art projects, it's understandable that I'm spending a great deal of time these days thinking about creation.

I love creating.  I have said it before, and I firmly believe I was created to create.  And I have said before how much I agonize over getting even the littlest details right - about making sure my ladybug looks like a ladybug, about making sure a walking stick won't break under pressure, about getting the angles of this and the colors of that just right so that it looks in full glory as I designed it in my head to look.  It's agonizing, painstaking work.  And totally worth it.

Sort of.

There comes a point in the creating process where I have to call it finished.  I have to publish my book, ship my orders, seal the deal (and often, the wood).  It is what it is and that is how it is going to stay.  That is the discouragement of my kind of creating.

The problem is that I want my work to create a revolution.  Every artist does, I think, to varying degrees.  But I want people to read my words and be transformed.  I want someone to hold a carving and be inspired.  I want someone to see a drawing or a painting and be encouraged.  But that can't happen.  

I think about a revolution.  The word.  Revolution is the rotation around a central point.  So to say that I want my work to create a revolution is...arrogant.  It's egotistical.  And it entirely misses the point of my work.  Because I don't really want people, places, movements, ideas to circle around my contribution.  My aim is always to get something moving around God.  I want the object of my work to be the center, not my work itself.  It's a fine line.

This is what I think God has done so well, and it is in doing the thing that I cannot do.  He created everything to grow.  He created everything to change.  He created everything with this infusion of life to keep it moving so that creation itself cannot become the center of a revolution.  What is here today is new tomorrow and different still the day after that.  So when you look at something transformative, inspiring, encouraging in the world, it's hard to attach yourself to that thing.  You have to look beyond it into its Creator's eyes and see its intention.  That's what makes it beautiful.  And that's how creation keeps us focused on God.  It's the dynamic nature of it.  It's the fact that it's always changing, always moving.  It's that God, in His wisdom, created an evolution to create a revolution.

It's brilliant!

I don't have quite the same luxury.  I cannot create life.  I cannot create a caterpillar that changes into a butterfly or a flower that grows from a seed to a bloom.  That is not in my realm of capabilities, and even if I could mimic such creation in a lab somewhere, it would only be because the building blocks are already given to me.  No man has the ability to create the very essence of life.  

But what I'm trying to do, what I ache to do as I work in the gifts God has given me, is to create something dynamic anyway.  Something that moves and breathes with time, that always speaks a new word, that meets this world wherever it's at.  The words in my books are never going to change, but if I don't lock the story down but instead give it the freedom to move, those never-changing words will always have a message for an ever-changing world.  And my job, as the author, is to get that dynamism to center around that thing that I think is worthy of changing the world, of starting a revolution.  For me, that thing is God.  So when my words hit a new heart, I want the movement to be God-centered instead of coming back on me.  It's a delicate balance, and I only pray I pull it off.  (The same is true of my other artistic endeavors.)

So that's kind of where I'm at this morning, surrounded by all of these creative works in their various stages of completion.  I'm thinking about the way God creates a revolution by creating evolution, by making things to change and grow.  By creating life itself.  And I can never do that.  I cannot create life.

But it is my prayer that through God's gift in me and the work I do for Him, that I can give life.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Guard on Duty

This morning, I want to take you to the tomb.  It's not Easter, not even close, but there are so many of us hungry for a resurrection story that I can't wait eight months to share this story with you.  It's the story of the Roman guard.  Remember him?

You see, as we tell the story of the tomb, we mention that a group of the faithful pulled Jesus' body down from the Cross, placed it in a borrowed tomb.  Then a stone was rolled across the entrance and a guard placed to guard the body from any religious riff-raff who might have wanted to start a rumor.  Or, you know, anyone who might still have future plans for the putrid flesh of a rotting Messiah.

After that little blurb, we do not see the guard again.  Ever.  The women show up at the tomb on the third day to find the stone rolled away and an angel of the Lord proclaiming the news that "the Man you are looking for is not here."  No guard.  So where did he go?

I've mentioned before that we so often get this mental image of a large stone sitting directly adjacent to the opening of the tomb, a fiery angel sitting on top.  I've mentioned before that I don't think this is an accurate image.  Rather than being rolled aside, I think that stone was pushed away.  By the Man coming out of the tomb.  I think Jesus reached the entrance, gathered His holy strength, and pushed that stone out.  (And before you get ahead of me, no.  I'm not saying He flattened the guard.)

But I think the guard was so surprised by the rolling of the stone that he panicked.  I think he ducked out.  I think he maybe ducked behind an adjacent cliff or a bush or a tree and hid his face, but not his eyes, so that he could watch what unfolded.  I think when his cover was busted, when his assignment was blown, he didn't stick around.  I think he went off running.  And I don't think he mentioned what he saw.

Because it was his job to make sure this kind of thing didn't happen.  Ok, they weren't exactly planning for this, but they were on the lookout for some scheme that would take Christ's body out of the tomb.  His sole priority was to make sure that didn't happen.  When Christ Himself threw a wrench in that duty from inside the darkened abyss, the guard, defeated, fled.  He couldn't believe his eyes, but neither could he tell his story.  It was, at its core, his story of failure.  The Romans wouldn't have gone out searching excitedly for the risen Christ; had he told his story, the Romans would have executed the miserable failure of a guard.  So I wonder what he did with his story.  We never really know.  Ours is a story of victory; I like it that way.

All that to say this.  I think there are so many of us trapped in darkness, stuck in an abyss, wrapped in grave clothes and lying in the tomb.  I think we feel like we're stuck there, trapped by this enormous stone that is so big that it blocks out all the light.  It blocks our eyes from seeing anything.  It blocks our hearts from dreaming of a way out.  Even if we could move this stone, we say, there's a guard on the other side and he's not just going to let me walk out.  That's the way the world traps us in darkness - by putting a stumbling block so big in front of us that we can't see the light, then telling us there's a guard on the other side waiting to slay us again should we try to walk out.

We've all been there right?  If it's not one thing, it's another.  As soon as you dig out of this hole, you fall into that one.  When this trouble passes, there's trouble still down the road.  There's no way out.  We pray, hoping God will come and move the stone, letting us out of the tomb.  We want Him to roll it aside, but that's not how the story goes.

When a dead man walks out of a tomb, he gathers holy strength and pushes the stone himself.

That's what we need to be focused on.  Not helplessly trapped in our darkest abyss, but calling on the name of the Lord to give us strength to push all stumbling blocks aside.  The darkness tells us there's a guard on the other side, but if you've ever rolled your stone, you know the truth: the guard is ducking for cover, watching from a distance, astonished at what his eyes see.  He could have stopped anybody from rescuing you, but he was powerless to stop you from walking out yourself and now, his story is a story of failure. victory.

Tell me: which is the better story?

And then tell me this: what if you don't move?  Where is the better story in that?  If you stay in your grave, locked into darkness by a boulder so big it covers the light, what happens is this - your story is a story of failure and the guard gets to speak of his victory.  He did it.  He kept anyone and everyone from stealing the body.  He kept anyone and everyone away.  He kept you there.  He kept you locked away, wrapped up, shut off, buried.  There's not a good story in that scenario at all.

The guard looks intimidating with his shiny metal helmet, his piercing sword, and his red mini-skirt (have you seen the way we depict the Roman soldier), but in the face of your holy strength, he has no recourse but to flee.  When he starts to see that stone roll, he's out of here.  He's running to hide.  He never, in his wildest imagination, thought the body would walk out of the tomb, but here you are.  Now, all he's got is bewilderment and failure.  He hasn't got a story.

But you do.  And you're about to start living it.  Who knows?  It might even change the world.

Monday, July 29, 2013


Back in May, my church announced that we would be changing our name, a name we've had for something like 70 years or more (I'm not very good at my own church history; I've only been there 13 years).  Yesterday, we announced what that new name would be.

I mock protested, erupting in laughter as I told my church leadership that I, for one, am completely against name changes.  For those of you who might not know, I legally changed my own name in 2007.

A lot of people don't understand this kind of thing.  Why can't you just make a new reputation for your old name instead of selling it out to something new?  If you don't like who you are, who people perceive you to be, as things are then isn't it incumbent upon you to do something different and change it?

Yes and no.

For the thirteen years that I've been there, my church has boasted the moniker: Franklin Church of Christ.  The Church of Christ label means: no instruments, women are silent, ultra-conservative, kinda-legalistic.  That's the impression people have of the Church of Christ.  And that's what we were...thirteen years ago.  And there are still people looking for that sort of thing, and God love them, but they won't find it inside our walls any more.  We haven't thrown out our whole history, but we have transformed into this community of believers that isn't so stuffed-shirt about our conservative doctrine any more.  We're more about love, and I think that's a good thing.  That's what Christ told us to be about - loving one another, not getting everything "right."

The truth is that for the past several years, whenever anyone has asked what church I go to, I have either omitted the name altogether and just said, "You know that church on the highway, just north of the blue building and south of that housing edition?  That one" or I have mumbled, as quickly as possible, "Franklin Church of Christ...but we're not really like that."  Because I know what people think when you say Church of Christ, and in fairness to those looking for such a place and in honor of those of us who know we aren't such a place, it seemed pertinent to say we are, but we aren't. know.

We set aside two weeks in May to sermon about the name change, about reasons for pursuing such a drastic measure.  We had to answer the questions we knew were coming in the congregation, and the leadership did a fantastic job.  As I listened to my preacher, I was nodding my head.  These were the same reasons that after many years of internal debate, I had changed my own name.  I won't bullet-point this for you.  I'm going to simplify it.

Names say a lot.  In Bible times, your name was an indication of something about you.  Sarah laughed, and her son was named, "He laughs."  Emmanuel means "God with us."  Abram's name was changed to Abraham, meaning "Father of many."  Jacob's name was changed to Israel, meaning "Struggles with God."  (Fitting, huh, for the nation that was to come?)  Names have meaning.  Aidan...means "Little fire."  Your name says something about you, or it sets you up for something.  It is defining in a way that is perfectly unique, even when you share a name with several thousands of others.

In the case of changing a name, it changes your story.  That's why, I think, a person or a church does it.  Most women change their names when they get married.  It signifies the beginning of a new narrative, the family narrative they now get to tell.  It frees them from having to tell their old family story and invites them into the new one they are building.  The name Aidan frees me from having to keep telling the story of who I was, fighting against who I was, constantly trying to prove that I was not who I was.  Instead, I am invited to tell the story of a little fire, the woman I am becoming.  The one I was created to be.  In the same way, by changing our name, my church no longer has to continually answer to the story of Franklin Church of Christ.  We don't have to defend ourselves to a world with a preconceived idea, nor do we have to defend ourselves to a Church of Christ heritage that we have retained only pieces of as we have grown to meet our community.  Instead, we are invited to tell our story, the one we are building around how God is moving in this place in this time in these people.  It is a defining moment.

And I'm sad to say that as creative, as deeply spiritual, as completely involved as I am in so much of everything, I did not come up with one good, one usable new name for my church.  I had a few partial ideas.  I liked the idea of a Seed-related something, like the faith of the mustard seed or it would give this impression of a good place to grow.  I see that in us.  I liked the idea of a Pasture-related something, since we have so much open field around us and I think we're a good place to move "past your" whatever.  I had some bad ideas, which I've posted around Facebook.  Shear Joy Shepherd's Flock.  Christ Church, New Zealot.  A few others.  Someone in my congregation actually (apparently) suggested Love Shack.  But I digress.  I was disappointed that I didn't have any better ideas, but let's be honest - at this point in my journey, I'd probably have been prideful had I come up with anything we eventually used.  I mean, yeah.  So it's really for the best.

All that to say this: I found out with the rest of my family yesterday what new story we get to be telling, and I am excited.  I am thankful, as I think so many of us are, to my Church of Christ heritage.  There are things I know and lessons I've learned from being CoC that I will never forget, indeed that have shaped the very fabric of my Christian walk.  But I am excited about who we are today and who we can be tomorrow, too.  (And I'm really glad we ditched that whole "women can't do anything" motif because I am honored to be able to share with my church in dynamic, awesome ways.)

The thing is that when you change your name, whether you're a person or a church or whatever you are, you don't turn your back on who you were.  It becomes enveloped in who you are becoming.  You don't lose it.  In a weird way, you redeem it.  When I go to visit grandma, I am still Andi.  Or Andrea.  (I prefer Andi.)  It doesn't bother me for things to be that way because in Aidan, I have the grace for who I was.  And that's fine.  So as we move forward as a congregation, as a family, as a community, I don't think we lose the Franklin Church of Christ story.  I think we redeem it.  It is a part of who we are, a part of who we are becoming.  And that's fine.  The FCC story remains.

The Turning Point Church story begins.  Real God.  Real Life.  Real People.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Art and Science

I've been doing a fair amount of baking lately, and even more cooking.  To the novice, those seem like the same things - preparing food - but anyone who does these things knows they couldn't be more different.  Baking is a science.  If you don't measure everything out precisely, you're not going to get the right result.  It's a formula, and you have to follow it to a T or your breads don't rise, your cakes fall, and your cookies bake flat.  Cooking, on the other hand, is an art.  You can sort of make it up as you go along, putting in a dash of this flavor and a pinch of that one and correcting for over- or under-seasoning, working the flavor out as you cook and giving the dish some time, and some grace, to come together.

I like cooking, of course.  Though baking has its merits (mainly, the fresh-out-of-the-oven warm sugar cookie kind).  But to each their own.  Some people are bakers.  Some people are cooks.  Some people are nukers (which is neither an art nor a science but a shortcut to someone else's art or science).  And still others are taker-outers.

The same is fairly true of our relationship with Christ, isn't it?  There are so many of us who want Christ to be a science.  We want Him to be a formula, a painstaking measuring out of this commandment and that service.  We think there has to be a way to put this Christian thing together to get the right result.  The problem is that we seem to consistently fail at getting our measurements right.  We don't get our ingredients all proportioned together, then we're defeated when we don't rise, instead we fall, and everything comes out flat.

There are those for whom Christ is a shortcut.  They want the quick, easy Jesus without a lot of time to invest in the actual making of a relationship.  They call on Him in times of trouble, cry His name at death's door, and try to enjoy the fruits of His sacrifice without having to figure out anything that really goes into it.  That's a shame.  Nothing nuked ever tastes quite as good.  (This coming from a girl who has shortcutted a grilled cheese on numerous occasion by toasting bread and melting cheese on it in the microwave.)  Something is always lacking.

There are those for whom Christ is take-out.  They rely on the faith of others to pull them through.  They rely on their friends and family, who have relationships with the Messiah, to be enough of a faith to keep Jesus in their sights though He offers nothing really satisfying for their souls.  It's kind of the same old thing day after day and after awhile, when that's all the Jesus you can get, it doesn't even sound good any more.

And then there are those of us for whom Christ is an art.  We don't really know how the day is going to go, but we're pulling it together as we go along.  We have the basics for a good dish - sacrifice, service, faith, hope, love, joy, peace - but we're not really sure about the flavors until we get there.  We spend our lives adding a pinch of this, a dash of that, stirring and simmering and kind of giving things the grace to come together.  We make it up as we go along.  There's a certain beauty in that.

As I think about this, stopping to pull chocolate-chocolate-chip muffins out of the oven for my niece and nephew, who are visiting with me this week (I can't have chocolate, but they seem to like it), I think about what happens when the fire goes out.  You pull this desert, this treat out of the oven, this baked deliciousness, this act of science and it's delicious.  But nobody's ever eaten a cake or a muffin or a cookie and eased back in their chair with a satisfied sigh, declaring, "That was fulfilling."  Rather, they say, "I shouldn't have."  I think the same is true for those of us who wish religion was a science.  One day, we will sit back, having digested the work of our science, our formula for getting Christ "right," and we'll say, "We shouldn't have."

Cooking, on the other hand, and the art of just sort of bringing things together and figuring them out, is deliciously satisfying.  You eat a good meal that's come together just right, with the right flavor of this spice and the right hint of that one and the aroma of something that's simmered just right (an aroma pleasing), and you're just satisfied.  You sit back in your chair, let out a sigh, and declare "That was good."  And that's how I think it's going to be for those of us who know that relationship with Christ is an art.  One day, we will sit back, having breathed in the pleasing aroma of a life coming together, having filled ourselves with a beautiful mix of a little bit of this and a little bit of that, having corrected along the way for the bland or the spicy parts, and we will smile a satisfied smile and simply declare, "That was good."

Are you living a life that's good?  It's an art, not a science.

Time to go serve up those muffins while they're still warm...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Buy the Field

There is a parable in the book of Matthew that I think strikes most of us today as awkward.  I know that I've read right past it several times, until this past week when it showed up in another story and I really stopped to think about it.  The story is in Matthew 13.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field.  When a man discovered it, he buried it again.  He was so delighted with it that he went away, sold everything he had, and bought that field.  Also, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant who was searching for fine pearls.  When he found a valuable pearl, he went away, sold everything he had, and bought it.

Maybe it's just me, but these verses always left me with questions.  Questions like...why did the guy bury the treasure again instead of just take it with him to get the money to buy the field?  And...why was he buying the field in the first place?  Was there more treasure in it?  And...what's the deal with the guy with the pearl?  Was it really worth everything he had?  What was he going to do with the pearl?

...Like I said, I was reading right past this story without a second thought.

I think it strikes most of us as odd to buy the field.  I don't think we really think about it.  This guy found this tremendous treasure and he risked to put it back where he found it until he could afford to buy the whole field.  And I think part of me still immediately jumps to the idea that he was about to start an archaeological expedition in that field, searching for more treasure.  That's where my postmodern, 21st-Century, entitled mind goes.  Dude wanted to maximize his investment; he wanted everything that field had to offer.

Then it occurs to me he already found it.

Then it occurs to me he refuses to steal it, which is something else that I think strikes most of us as odd.  If you found a treasure in a field and you were confident enough to bury it again and trust that no one was going to steal it in the time it took you to get back, shouldn't you also be just as confident to tuck it in your pocket and walk away?  I mean...what good is a field if you already have its treasure?

A valid point.  On the surface.

I think this is the question so many people are asking about Christianity today.  About God, about church, about salvation.  I think we're wondering why so many people buy the field when it would be just as easy to tuck Christ in your pocket and walk away.  People want to come to the Cross not for the passion but for the promise.  They want heaven, the treasure buried in the field.  They have no need of the dirt.

Then they're carrying around this Christ without the investment of having actually bought into Him and...I don't know.  The whole thing is cheap.

I'm not saying you can't have the treasure.  The grace of God is free.  Go ahead and take it.  But there's something about buying the field.  There's something about selling everything you've got, cleaning your own house, clearing your closets, putting everything out there and stripping yourself to nothing just to get this one thing.  There's something about investing all you've got in the field, about giving all you have to the work of God.  There's something about having this place where you know there is treasure...and you also know it is yours.

You've heard it said that so-and-so is outstanding in their field?  Well, I'm more interested in the persons out standing in their field!  I'm looking for people who have bought the field!  I'm looking at those who know that when God said He was giving man this land to tend, He was talking to them.  I'm looking to the men and women with the dirt on their hands, the sweat on their brows, the cuts on their feet who have found treasure in the field and sold themselves out to buy the whole thing.  Now, they're standing there working it and there's something growing.  They are cultivating the kingdom of heaven itself.  In their own little place.  On their own little plot.  In their field.  Because they know the promise of tomorrow's heaven is no answer for today's hell on earth unless we're invested in this place.  Unless we're all in.

And I'm hoping to be the kind of person to make such an investment.  I hope I am.  The treasure is great, don't get me wrong.  The kingdom of heaven is marvelous.

But there's something about buying the field.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


You've heard it said that He is the Potter and you are the clay and that God had a form, a structure, a purpose in mind as He created precisely you.

It's kind of nice.

But have you considered the way you were created?  Consider Isaiah 45:9.  Many translations have the clay asking the Potter, "What are you making?"  I'm currently reading the God's Word translation, however, which phrases the verse this way:

Does the clay ask the one who shapes it, 'What are you making?'  Does your work say to you, 'There are no handles'?

God created you without handles.  Think about that.

Think about that when you feel like He's just dragging you around this life.  A lot of us feel that way, don't we?  We've given ourselves over completely to this thing we call "God's will" and resigned ourselves to doing the things He forces us to do as He drags us from one place to another, from one circumstance to another, from one problem to another and it doesn't feel like we have a lot of say in it and it doesn't feel like He's much of a divine maker.  Is this our purpose?  To be dragged around?  

Not without handles.

Think about it when you are kind of aching for God to guide you.  We have those times, too.  I know I do.  There are days I wish God would take me by the hand and lead me straight into whatever He has for me, whatever will answer my questions, whatever I'm aching to understand.  I wish He would just grab me and take me on a tour of His divine master plan so that I could see it, so that I could get it.  But He doesn't do that, either.  Not most days.  He can't.

Not without handles.

Think about it when you feel like you're just sitting around, wasting away, taking up space.  We know those times, too.  Times when it feels like we don't know what we're doing, why we were created, why we are even here.  We don't know what we were formed for, and it doesn't seem we're ever going to find it because it doesn't feel like we're moving.  It doesn't feel like we're going anywhere.  We're just stuck.  As we ought to be, we think.  How can a man be moved...

without handles?

We spend so much of our time wanting handles for any number of reasons.  We have to have them, we say, to be used, to be moved, to be led.  But it is by God's beautiful creation that He didn't give us any.

You have been formed with the greatest of care, with every intricate detail painstakingly agonized over by the Potter.  Another verse tells us that if it wasn't going well, God clumped you back together to form you again until He had you just right.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made...without handles.  Because the God who created you was thinking ahead.

Whenever He wants to move you or use you, He also must hold you.  He's got to take you in the palm of His hand.  It's the only way.  It's all He can do...without handles.

Think about that.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Each of us, throughout our days, has countless opportunities to tell our story.  The question I want you to think about today is how you tell yours.

Over the weekend, I had the invitation to tell my story again as I worked through the application questions for the Clinical Pastoral Education program.  It wasn't that far into the narrative that I realized I was telling my story in a way I hadn't before.  Which got me thinking about the kinds of words I used to use...

There have been times in my life that I've told my story from a distance, as far away as possible from the heart of the story.  I didn't have the energy to lie, but shame kept me from owning my own history.  So I would tell you these things that had happened or these moments that I had experienced without ever explicitly telling you that it was me in the story.  I inferred, of course, and any halfway intelligent individual could figure it out, but I protected my heart by standing to the side.  I was telling a story, and it looked like my story, but I didn't have to feel it like it was my story.

There have been times that I would tell my story in anger.  I have wanted others to see the world the way I saw it, and this meant that again, I was not owning my story.  Instead of telling you my experiences, life through my eyes, I was actually telling you the stories of other people as they made cameos in my story...without really putting my name to it.  I told you about other people, with enough description and detail to get you to think and respond and react the way that I needed you to react, but it wasn't about me at all.  My story was about them.  Which means I didn't have a story at all.

There comes a point, I think, for just about anyone with any real story (and I don't say that to diminish those of you who have never had to struggle.  Good for you...*sarcasm* *denial*) where you're tired of the way your story looks so you start telling something completely different.  There have been times for me that I refused to mention any of the things that make my story what it is.  Instead, I would tell you all of the incredible things I have done.  All of my great achievements.  All of my gloried moments.  The glory sounds better than the gory, doesn't it?  And then you're seeing a part of me that is strong and capable and hardworking and good and oh please tell me I'm good because I can't bear to be in another story any more.  There have been those days, but it's not really my story.  It's a fable.  It's a farce.  It's a front.  And anybody that ever came to know me through that narrative...I feel like they've never really known me at all.  Because I knew better about myself.

There are times I have succomb to my story, given in and surrendered.  I have written my story in defeat and resignation, thinking this is all there would ever be to my story and knowing that is all you would ever see in me.  Helpless to change the places I've come from, I gave myself over to them and even I couldn't see hope reflected in the mirror.  It wasn't a story I was telling; I was being told.  That's not cool, either.

This weekend as I sat down to write my story one more time (probably not the last time), I found myself owning it in a way that I never had before.  I wrote with this feeling of incredible strength in me even as I detailed my weaknesses, my vulnerabilities, and my aching.  I was telling my story as honestly as I could, knowing that story doesn't have the final word.  The Author does, and this girl is still being written.

What I found as I wrapped up a "reasonably full account of my life" was that I've reached this place where I don't tell my story from my victories, but from my trials.  I tell my story from my troubles because 1) that is a truth in my story but 2) it creates space for victory to shine.  Not the feeble, fabricated victories of the glorified version I once told in rebellion but the honest victory of the glorified self as God redeems me.  I tell my story in strength, knowing this is not the whole story. I think that's a good way to tell a story.  I think the more you speak from your weakest places, the more God's strength is able to shine.

But I think there's another element, too, and I found myself weaving this in without knowing it: You have to include a handful of your strong moments.  Not every achievement.  Not every mountaintop moment.  Just enough to show that you are active and engaged in your own life, that you're making decisions to move yourself forward, that you're choosing for yourself what your story will say, even if that is surrender for Someone Else to tell your story.

I was humbled in telling my story this time, and humbled by the story I shared.  It was this beautiful balance of trial and trouble with enough assertiveness and discipline and courage to say that I am taking control of where I am and handing myself over to the One who knows where I am going.  I was not shamed.  I was not angry.  I was not glorified.  I was not resigned.  I was strong, and I was humbled.  A beautiful paradox of my God.

And you know what?  For the first time in my life (in such a formal way), I think I finally told my story.  That's pretty cool.

So how are you telling your story?  What's keeping you from owning it?  What if you defined yourself by your weakest moments and your toughest choices?  What if you showed your brokenness and also your surrender?  How would your story look if you told it and it was your story?  Something to think about...

Monday, July 22, 2013


The news I am about to share may shock some of you:

I want to be in ministry.

Right.  Big shock, I know.  The truth is that ministry is something that has been on my heart for many years, since not too long after I came to know this man named Jesus.  I've always had this storytelling gift and this way of just connecting with people in authentic and honest ways.  I don't think that's an accident.

And for thirteen years, for different reasons, I have pushed the burden of ministry aside.  First it was because I was young in the church and couldn't quote a single Scripture and barely knew the heart of God.  I didn't know it at all, in fact, in a tangible way.  That would come later.  Then it was my tribe, or my denomination.  When I finally settled on a church family, I settled into a place called a Church of Christ.  It was a place in which women had no measurable gifts to offer except perhaps child care, and I've never really wanted to be a babysitter (Aeris, Damien, and Finn excluded).  Not that kids aren't awesome; they are.  But I never imagined my service to God would be in the nursery.

Then I went off to college in a new denomination, a college of the Church of God.  Our campus minister was a woman, and I started to think that maybe I had a chance at developing something there.  In fact, I was encouraged by the faculty in the religious studies department, who were pushing for me to start speaking at chapel and taking roles in various campus ministries.  All I had to do was meet with the campus minister first.  After one short lunch, she laid it on the line - I was Church of Christ.  They were Church of God.  I didn't have a place in her pulpit.  I was shattered.  As it turned out, I wasn't going to be fit for ministry anywhere.

For several years after that, I wrestled with both darkness and physical illness.  Against the demons of post-traumatic stress disorder, the defeat of an undiagnosed illness that, while no doctor could name, they still told me it would kill me, and the pressures of just trying to figure out how to function, I gave up thoughts of ministry altogether because, honestly, what did I have to offer?  I was so weak and so defeated and so was I supposed to be hope and love and peace and grace to someone else?

Thankfully, in that mess, I came to an intimate knowledge of my God and this side of it, I'm throwing myself back into storytelling.  The author thing has been great, and I can only imagine it will continue to be so.  I love getting up every day, diving into my Bible for the nuggets of truth that speak in the unique language that God and I share and wrapping them in story, my story and your story.  His story.  I am humbled to do what I do.

It hasn't stopped me from looking for a "real" job.  You know, one that has what every starving artist sort of craves - stability.  For more than five years, I have looked at nearly 10,000 job listings EVERY DAY.  I don't even want to do the math.  I have applied for hundreds, probably approaching thousands.  I have interviewed who knows how many times.  I have come close to good jobs.  And I have always had an incredible dread and a horrid panic and a terrible fear the closer I've come to good jobs.

Because also in those five years, I have read the job description for every single open chaplain position there's been.  Applied to a few that seemed to have low standards, lamented that I don't have the education to qualify.  Or the ordination.  There's no such thing as ordination in my church, but most of these job listings don't understand that.  Still my heart has been aching for just such a job as this.  There are some very cool jobs out there, including a few I'm interviewing for right now that would be fantastically awesome...but there is a piece of my heart that won't be happy until I also have ministry.

And that piece of my heart is growing.

Last Friday, God blessed me to stumble upon an internship program to earn the Clinical Pastoral Education credits I need to enter chaplaincy, to qualify for these jobs that for five years have been out of my reach.  And you know what?  I'm going for it.  I finished my application materials this morning and submitted them to the proper contact.  Now, I wait...and pray.

In the meantime, can I say?  I have had more moments of absolute peace, sheer joy, and complete freedom since Friday.  I think that's what happens when you stop being scared and stop being roadblocked and start going after that very thing God has created in you.

I am humbled to have found it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Right and Good

Some days, this world just gets to me.  You ever have those days?

I grew up in an era of manners and hard work, and it wasn't as long ago as some of you might think.  I'm only 28.  And I was always told that if you work hard, serve well, keep your head up, and stick to your guns, you're going places.  You can do anything you want to do, be anything you want to be, and if you do it well and honestly and with integrity, this world is going to smile on you.

And I think that at one time in this place, that was probably true.  But that time is not this time.  In this world we live in, it's not enough to be right.  It's not enough to be good.  It's not enough to work hard, serve well, keep your head up, and stick to your guns.  There's no room for that kind of thing.

A few cases in point:

It wasn't that long ago that I mentioned some disappointing news I received in which the world has adjudicated its case against me and found me in default.  That's part of the story.  The other part of the story is that...I'm right.  By every definition of the word, I am on the side of right.  But unless I want to play dirty, I haven't got a case.  Unless I want to change everything about who I am and the way I live in this world, I am going to lose.  I'm not happy about it.  It aches in my heart.  I burn with the longing for the time when right was right and right won.  But this time is not that time.

I look at the unemployed, the chronically unemployed who have so much to offer any potential employer.  I hear the stories of my friends, who are good people.  They've worked hard.  They've been diligent.  They've done everything right, and they can't get a foot in the door.  Then last week on the news, I hear the story of a convicted murderer who escaped from prison and was on the lam for 4 months...during which time, she held a job!  This woman's on the run with no way to even identify herself, and she waltzes into a job at a time when so many good, hard-working, honest people can't even get an interview at the Wal-Mart.  Then I think about all the programs designed to help other troubled souls find work.  If you are handicapped, or a recovering addict, or a former inmate, there are places and people who will connect you with work when you want it.  People with clean lives can't access these programs.  They're being shoved out of jobs so those who blew it can have another chance.

I'm not saying I'm against redemption; I myself have been redeemed.  But what happened to open doors for good people?

This time is not that time.

(Truth: Some days, this is me in my chronic unemployment.  Most days, as time goes by, I am encouraged by knowing that I am right where God would have me.  Although the starving artist period has its moments...)

So what's a man to do in this time when it's not enough to be right or good?  When it's maybe not anything to be right or good?  Do you give up good?  Do you give up right?

You can't.  At least, I can't.  I refuse to make myself wrong to be viewed right.  I refuse to corrupt my character to get a chance.  Not because I was raised this way (but I was).  Not because I am disciplined this way (but I am).  Not because this is my habit, the very foundation on which I have built my life (but it is).  But because this is how I was created.  To be right and good.

That is how God created us.  To be right, knowing truth, and to be good, living truth.  It's frustrating in a place that doesn't reward that or even recognize it, but it doesn't change the intent of God's creation.  We are to be right and good.

And when, God tells us, our right is wrong.  Then we are to be wrong...and righteous.  Not self-righteous, but holy.  Be holy about being wrong, even when you're right. And when, He says, your good is bad, when it doesn't get you ahead, when it doesn't give you the opportunities you're looking for, let it be bad...and be gracious.  You, too, have been redeemed.

On the days when it's hard to live in these times, when I long for the days where right and good were enough, when I realize that those days are not these days...I can't help but still be right and good.  I do my best to be righteous and gracious.  Because I'm not accountable to this world, as much as it wants to tell me I am.  I am accountable to God.

And He created me this way.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Yesterday, I expounded on three varying degrees to which we are God's, taken from Isaiah 19.  We are the works of His hands regardless of our buy-in (He made each of us; we are His).  We are His people when we put ourselves under His leadership but maintain the freedom to work as we see fit within His paradigm.  And we are His possession when we are fully sold out and wholly bought back by the power of the blood.  Check out yesterday's post for more on all of that.

I promised today that I would tell you a little more about what each of these means, and to do that, we have to branch out into other parts of the Bible.  I'm not going to quote Scripture here because 1) I'm basing this off the remembered references I have in my head from daily reading, which makes them insanely hard to find.  and 2) These are phrases and words used more than once (I think) throughout the Bible, so you will run across them again and again as you read.  And please read your Bibles.  They are full of good stuff.  Like this:

What more can we say about the works of His hands?  They are His creation, His beautiful masterpiece.  The Bible talks frequently about the care He puts into each and every one of them, about the interplay between the Potter and the clay.  We are reminded that when He's working on something and it's not turning out right, He is within His discretion as the artist to lump it all back together and start again.  That means that regardless of how much you care about God at any given moment, He cares a great deal about you and He labored over getting you just right.  Do you understand that you're just right?  And that when you're're still being worked over, still being worked on, still being tenderly crafted until you are the very perfect you?  He loves you, even if you're content to be only the work of His hands.

What more can we say about His people?  Plenty, but let's focus on this: when you read through the Scriptures, you find fairly often that Israel, in particular, is not merely a nation of "God's people."  They are, instead, a nation of "God's chosen people."  You think you have put yourself under His leadership.  You think that you have joined His nation.  But the truth is - God has chosen you.  Like a schoolyard pick, He's standing there and sees all that you have to offer, all that you can bring to His team, and He has chosen you to play for Him.  Being His people means that you've opted to play as you've been picked rather than walk away and abandon the playground.  Earlier this week, I celebrated the anniversary of the day I gave my life to Christ.  Isn't that how we view it?  We picked Him.  But the truth, my friends, is so much more beautiful.  He picked YOU.  That is one of many reasons it is an honor to be among His people.

Chosen by God sounds pretty good, and it is for most of us.  But what more can we say about His possession?  I've actually been going over this verse a lot as I've worked with the editing of a recent chapter in my second book (coming this fall!) - because it's in there.  This is another phrase that's missing a key describer.  Just as we've gone from God's people to God's chosen people, when we read through the Scriptures, we find not simply "God's possession" but "God's treasured possession."  He treasures you!  He doesn't just own you.  You're not just sitting on His shelf.  He didn't buy you up and put you in storage or put you in a box or stuff you in His garage.  He treasures you.  He uses you.  He puts you on display.  He dusts you every day to make sure the grime doesn't build up.  He takes tender care of you because He doesn't want you to crack.  He doesn't want you to break.  He doesn't want you to fall into disuse or fall into disarray because you are His, but that's not all you are.  You are treasured.  Doesn't it bring tears to your eyes just to think that God could treasure you?  Has anyone ever treasured you?  God does.

I asked you to spend some time thinking about to which degree you are God's.  Are you the work of His hands?  That's cool.  Are you His people?  Even better.  Are you His possession?  That's great!  But it's not just about where you are; it's about what you are.  I invite you to take some time, knowing which group you fall into today, to think about what that means.  Consider what it is to be carefully crafted, to be chosen, to be treasured.

And don't overthink it.  This is not one or the other.  It's a progressive movement.  If you have been chosen, you are also carefully crafted.  If you are His possession, you are also the work of His hands.  These things build on each other.  Let that thought blow your mind.

Can you imagine living, knowing you are carefully crafted, chosen by God, and treasured?


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

People, Works, and Possessions

Not that long ago, I spent a few days writing about the church, our share and our portion, and about "not God's people."    It's hard sometimes for us, as blessed people, to grasp that we're not all that God's got going on around here.  He's using everybody, everything.  Which takes me into Isaiah 19...

When that day comes, a highway will run from Egypt to Assyria.  The Assyrians will come to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.  When that day comes, Israel will be one-third of God's people, along with Egypt and Assyria.  They will be a blessing on the earth.  The Lord of Armies will bless them, saying, 'My people Egypt, the work of my hands Assyria, and my possession Israel are blessed.'  (v. 23-25)

It is interesting to consider that the day is coming when God's people will be...only one-third of God's people.  When enemy nations and those that we've been standing against for so long, and those that have stood against us, will round out the army of the Lord of Armies and worship together.  Even peoples who do not now seem to be worshiping our God.  They will worship Him.  With us.  In that day.  Crazy!

But what I'm looking at most in this verse is the blessing of the Lord of Armies.  My people... He says.  The work of my hands...and my possession.  It strikes me because these are the three varying degrees to which we are God's, and that extends beyond the nation of His people or not His people that we may or may not belong to.

There are His people, a characteristic He ascribes to the nation of Egypt.  A people is a group of persons under one leadership.  I am a part of the American people because I am under the leadership of America - its laws, its politics, its policies.  It is kind of an interesting place to be because as a people, you have this thing that defines you and yet, you maintain a certain measure of freedom that allows you to operate as you see fit within that paradigm.  As an American, I can choose my own career, build my own family, buy my own home, drive my own car, choose to walk or bike instead.  Anything I want to do within the structure set up under which I define myself, that is - anything permissible under my leadership - is possible.  Including choosing the impermissable.  As the people of God, the incorporated persons of Egypt can define themselves by the leadership of the Lord.  They operate under His authority, under what He permits or does not permit them to do.  Including choosing the impermissable.  Being His people defines them, but they retain a certain measure of freedom to do as they please within that definition of being His people.

There are the works of His hands.  In this case, the Assyrians.  The works of His hands don't have as much buy-in.  They may not identify with Him, may not place themselves under His leadership, may not acknowledge His guidance, but He made them anyway and He continues to use them.  Unbeknownst to them, their lives are worship.  They are part of the story, part of the plan, and they are working into the narrative something glorious God is doing.  In our society, we might call them unsuspecting unbelievers.  Or even reluctant republicans (little R).  There is so much in our society that is innately religious that it almost seems innocuous, but it seeps into the hearts of even the loudest protesters and they are a part of the worship whether intentional or not.  By being a part of the state, they are a part of the worship.  And who knows what God is doing with their lives.  Time will only tell.  They are still a part of His people, wholly blessed, the work of His hands.  Made, at least, if unknowingly - or unadmittedly - so.

There are His possessions, people He fully owns.  People who have given themselves over to Him and into His hands and who have committed themselves to His doing whatever He wants with them.  More committed than a people merely under His leadership, these are persons under His full control.  As if they were objects in His house.  As if they were pieces He could move around and rearrange however He sees fit.  These people are sold out, and they've been bought with blood and they know it.  They are His, wholly His, and happy to be so.  They are His possession.

We are all God's.  The question is, to what degree are you His?  Are you living life as the work of His hands, simply something He made and not something greater?  Are you a person of His people, defining yourself by His leadership?  Or are you His possession, fully sold out and wholly bought back by the redeeming power of Jesus' blood?

More on this thought tomorrow, but I want to give you today to think about where you're living.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Three Days

One of the troubles I have with the Bible is that it is primarily God's story.  Which is fine, I suppose, if you're God but as one of God's people, there are days I kind of wish for more of the people's story.

I get it.  I do.  I love the way the Bible encourages and inspires me, the way it keeps me focused on the Promise of God and His persistent presence and the way He's always working everything out for good.  I love seeing the way His people camp outside enemy territory, then storm the place and win all in a matter of verses.  I love the way the fourth guy shows up in the furnace in the same breath that the three Israelites are thrown in.  I love that Jonah is swallowed by a whale and spewed out on the beach and we don't have to wait three days to figure all that out.  I love that we're not suck waiting three days to see Jesus rise from the dead.

But there are time sin my life that I long to know more about those three days.

Because that's where I'm living.

I am living somewhere between crucifixion and resurrection, somewhere between blowholes and the beach.  God's people camped outside enemy territory for one more night before God promised to hand them the victory tomorrow.  I want to know what happens between tonight and tomorrow because that's where I am.  Somewhere between.

In this place, the Bible doesn't have a lot of practical advice or prudent example.  I need to know what a man does for three days in a whale.  The promise of the puke is nice, but there are a few long nights to get through first.  The promise of three days later just doesn't always feel like enough.

A couple of Easters ago, I wrote about Jesus in the grave.  I don't need to know what a man does in a grave for three days because, as I said then, I believe that Jesus was fully dead.  I don't think He was sitting around killing time, folding His grave clothes again and again until the appointed moment.

But I wonder what eleven other men, a handful of other women, and a nation of hopeful people did for three days.  I need to know how they passed the time.  I need to know what they did with themselves while trembling.  The day after Passover was Sabbath, a day of rest.  Were they able to rest or were they restless?  How did they take it?  What does a grieving man do for three days when he has the hope of resurrection but a few long nights to get through first?

The story of God is a narrative of hope.  Obviously, it can't be based in the human realm because it's irrelevant, really, what God's people do; what matters is what God does through His people.  And we see enough of their failings and His faithfulness to understand the interaction of the human element with the divine.  That is some hope.  You can't help but believe in a God like that.  I love the way He tells His story.

It's just that sometimes, there are a few long nights to get through and I can't help but wonder what a man is supposed to do with all that hope.  I can't help but wonder what a man is supposed to with all that promise.  I can't help but wonder what a man is supposed to do with himself between crucifixion and resurrection, between blowholes and the beach, between tonight and tomorrow.

I can't help but wonder what a man is supposed to do for three days in a whale.

Monday, July 15, 2013


I'm kind of a performer, though not as much these days as in years gone by.  That is to say, I've spent a great majority of my life trying to figure out what role I'm supposed to play - or what role I want to play - and then playing that up to its illogical extreme.  I have been, you could say, a girl looking for her place and determined to make one for herself if nobody else will.

Which has kind of made me pushy and obnoxious and intrusional over the years, giving me a reputation and a place but neither that I would particularly want.  I am the kind of person who wouldn't so much as get up and go to the bathroom for fear my place at the table would close up while I was gone and I would never get it back.  God's been working on my heart lately and teaching me to create a place for myself...within myself.  A revolutionary idea!  The hard truth is that I haven't known really where my place might be because I haven't known at all who God created in me.  As I'm discovering that, the other pieces I've labored for are falling into place without my pushing.

Case in point: a week ago.

I mentioned on Friday that the rules at Grandma's are different than the rules here.  They aren't bad rules.  In fact, many of them, I would adopt around my own place if I had a little more discipline.  But I get caught in habit here and it's tough to make the changes.  At Grandma's, though, it seems so natural to live her way.  And it brings joy to my heart to honor her by honoring her rules.

That is something I'm discovering about myself as God works in me.  I thrive on finding a way to honor someone else.  I am honored and humbled to be able to serve and to satisfy them with integrity.  This comes natural for me.  All those years I spent trying to prove that I was a hard worker to gain a reputation and a place as, if nothing else, a worker bee...and all those years in vain because I was building for myself something I didn't want and nobody else really needed and worse yet, did not appreciate because it was obnoxious in its execution.  Yet here I am with the opportunity to honor someone I love and to serve others (the 20+ people she was hosting in her house) and that's all I can think about with my hands elbow-deep in dish suds.  Because grandma washes dishes at least once a day and people need clean forks for dinner and there's socializing going on out on the patio and while I'm thinking about what it might be like to sit out there and chat for a bit, I'm also thinking the dishes need washed or grandma's not going to go to sleep tonight and dinner is going to be delayed and every helpful soul (they were very helpful souls) at that table is going to be kicking themselves for not helping more when they realize the kitchen is a mess and nothing has been done to clean up from lunch and the salads are still sitting on the counter and the bread's been open since breakfast.  So I'm washing dishes, not because that is my place but because that is my heart.  I'm washing dishes not because I don't have a spot on the patio but because the forks still have spots on them.  Because that's what comes naturally to me to do, and I am doing it.

And I discover there's plenty of time to talk, too.  Time to meet people and share stories and laugh a little.  There's a seat out on the patio, a place around the table.  I don't have to make it.  I don't have to guard it.  I don't have to wiggle myself in to make room.  It's there.  When I get around to it.

It's finding a way to sneak in and vacuum the floors while Grandma runs to town, before everyone gets back from their hotels for the day, because there's dirt on the floor and there wasn't yesterday and even though there are 20 people running in and out all the time, that's no excuse.  It honors Grandma to keep her house and it serves those who worry about the dirt on their socks and gives everyone a chance to enjoy themselves instead of thinking the whole thing has to be work.

It doesn't even feel like work to me, I realize as I also realize I'm not trying to prove anything by it.  It just feels like love.  There's no more natural place in the world for me to be than vacuuming my grandmother's floors while friends and family start to gather again.

And then there's time, and place, for me to gather, too.

I am telling you - this place I have fought for my whole life, this place I thought I had to create and make and take by sheer force - has never been as fulfilling when I've thought I've found it as has my place when I wasn't really looking for one.  I spent a week in the company of family and friends and total strangers who have become friends...just doing what I do.  Doing what comes naturally to me, which is working hard, honoring people, serving others, a little bit of creating, and a good dose of deflecting and redirecting praise.  Shining the light on someone else for a change instead of thinking if I want a place, it has to be spotlighted.  Instead of buying the lie that I am forgettable.  Or rather, buying the lie that forgettable is a bad thing.

What was most satisfying about living true to what God's created in me in a simple week at Grandma's is that I finally started hearing the words that I thought would mean so much.  A whole group of people I had just met, who I was pleased to spend a few hours on the patio with, couldn't stop telling me how awesome I am.  Not when I was bragging about this or that thing that I did, not when I was huffing and puffing to draw attention to myself and my hard work, not when I was trying to force a place...but simply when I showed up to the place they already had for me and lived not like I wanted to belong there but like I did belong there.  I was embarrassed to hear their praise, humbled by their taking notice of my work.  I would have been fine had no one noticed me washing the dishes every night but a few of them showed up to help.  And we didn't talk about dishes.  And we didn't talk about me.  We talked about life and just shared a moment, neither of us realizing the place that this was.

The whole week felt good.  It felt right.  It felt natural.  It was so incredible to find this place where there  And to live with people and to laugh with people and to love on people and to hear a few good words about myself which, in contrast to so many of the good things I've heard before, weren't tied for once to what I do.  They were a reflection on who I am.  It was affirming of who I am.  Because I wasn't trying to be or to do anything; I was living and loving as God created in me.  Finding enough to serve and to savor, to labor and to laugh.  I had this place just to be, and so simply I was.  And it was awesome.  It was really, really cool.

I heard "You're awesome" more in that week, and more sincerely in that week, than I've heard it in a long time.  And every time, I shrugged my shoulders, said "nah," changed the subject and smiled, thinking to myself how awesome my God is that He created me this way.

Friday, July 12, 2013

House Rules

I'm coming off a third week at Grandma's in the past couple of months, and I've mentioned before how Grandma's is a place where I feel instantly at home.

But it's not home.

It's not home because I don't live at Grandma's the same way I live around my own house.  I do things differently because her rules are not my rules (rather, my rules are not her rules).

Around my house, I can walk through the mud and walk right inside the door and head for the bathroom or the kitchen or wherever else I'm going.  At Grandma's, I take my shoes off.

It's not uncommon for my floors to go a week or two without vacuuming, depending on what's going on around here.  At Grandma's, if there's so much as a spot on the floor, I vacuum.  Because I probably did it when I forgot to take my shoes off and there's no reason for Grandma to clean up after me.

My dogs are used to treats after a bath, after a grooming, and after a car ride.  Grandma's dogs get treats at least once a day, just for existing.  So when we're there, my dogs, too, get a treat at least once a day.  And when we get home?  They whine so much about it that they get one here, too.  For awhile.

Here, my towel hangs on a hook and my hand towel on a ring.  At Grandma's, my towel is on the rack and hand towel on the counter, so both get folded.  Every time.  Laundry comes out of the dryer and is folded and put away.  Right away.  Trash gets moved from the walmart bag to the small can to the big can before eventually hauled to the dump.

Grandma washes dishes every day.  Sometimes, every meal.  When I'm at her house, I wash dishes.  Every meal.  Especially on a week like last week when she was hosting a couple of dozen people in her house and silverware, in particular, was always piling up.  And when Grandma washes dishes, it's not like around here.  You don't just leave the clean ones in the sink to dry and use as time permits; you wash everything, dry everything, and put everything away all at the same time.

I've never been a dish dryer.  At Grandma's, I dry dishes.

Why?  Because it's not my house.

And it was during one of these dish-drying extravaganzas that I had the following realization: as different as it is to live by Grandma's rules, I don't mind it one bit.  It doesn't bother me to do things her way because I understand that it honors her for me to do so.  I understand that what I do, when I do it by her rules, contributes to the place she has created as her home, the place where she lives whether I am there or not.  And it's important to me to respect that, honor that, and do what I can to make sure I live by that when I'm in her house.

Which led me to the following question, one I invite you to ask yourself:

How would I live in my Father's house?  And what if every day, I realized this was His place with His rules and His preferences and His standards?

And what if I disciplined myself to respect that, even to honor that?

What if I spent every day living like I'm in my Father's house?

It would change things, that's for sure.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013


So I'm psyching myself up for what will be my very first boat ride, and all of these boat lovers have only one question for me.

Can you swim?

Their reassurance that my "yes" meant "you will be fine" was not exactly reassuring.  Because here I am taking my first few steps from dry land onto the dock, and I'm feeling every one of those waves.  Just a few steps out, I can't see the bottom of the lake any more.  And to be honest, if I wanted to swim, I'd jump right in.  I wanted to go on a boat ride.  I was not comforted by the back-up plan.

The dock is a scary place to be.  It creates the illusion of a solid place to stand, but it feels anything but.  Your feet are steady, but the rest of you is rocking with each little ripple of the water that comes in toward the shore.  The boat is close, but a little too far away if you've never made that big of a step before.

One small step for a man...

Once you're aboard, there's so much to do, so much going on, ropes being untied, shoes being stowed away, waves coming in, waves going out, and finally the motor firing up...that you don't really notice any of that any more.  And once that little vessel starts cutting through the water, unless you hit a wake or something, you don't even notice the waves.

They aren't rocking you any more.  You are rocking them.  Suddenly, it's you making the waves and there's nothing the sea can do about it.  Talk about a shift in power.

Now, I got an A in advanced physics (two semesters) but it's still not my strong suit.  Whenever I'm stressed, to this day, I dream about it being second semester and I haven't done an ounce of physics homework all year.  But what I think about the boat is this: I think it's the force through which you, in the boat, are creating your own motion that tames the motion of the waves.  That is, as you cut your way through, you have a stronger presence on the water than the water has on you and that creates the illusion of calmness....even when just minutes ago on the dock, you were rocked and you couldn't believe you were about to go out on these very waves.


It got me thinking about Peter.  (Because, you know, I've been on a boat for 20 seconds by this point so let's skip right ahead to getting out of the boat and walking on water.  Why not?)  It got me thinking about the way he was probably comfortable in the boat.  Not in the storm, necessarily, but in the boat because for the most part, the motion of the boat was calming.  Then the storm comes along and its force is greater than the boat, so everything's rocking.  Then everything's really rocking because I'm guessing if Peter wants to step out and walk on water, nobody's even trying to row any more.  They are just sitting there, waiting on him to disembark.  Waiting on him to step out.  And without any motion of their own to counteract the force of the waves, that ship is shimmying.  He is feeling every wave.

Christ doesn't ask Peter, Can you swim?  He's not making accommodation for disaster.  He simply says come, knowing that Peter's about to be rocked.  I think the challenge for Peter was to create enough force of motion that he couldn't feel the waves.  Enough purpose and passion and pursuit that the storm-tossed sea didn't matter.  Enough presence of himself that he was the one making waves.  I think he fell short of that.

I often fall short of that.

Christ beckons me come, and I want to go but this world has a way of rocking me that some days is hard to overcome.  Some days, I'm sailing and when Christ says come, I have to stop my boat and feel every bit of those waves.  I have to build up my courage to step out.  And by the time I'm ready to really walk, the waves have taken over and that's all I can see.  That's all I can feel.  I don't think I'm alone in this.

But I think the answer is that we have to move with such force for God, with such purpose and passion and pursuit, that the power of our motion calms the waves that crash against us.  That we don't even notice the waves any more.  And we have to move with such power that we make new waves.  We set a new ripple on the sea from our very stepping out.

If we could pull that off (and it's a very tall order), I think it doesn't matter if we can swim.  We're walking on water, any which way the Savior calls us.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Yesterday, I wrote about trust as a daddy issue that had become a Father issue without my even realizing it.  The more I've let that post ruminate in my heart, the more I've been thinking about trust in general.  Have you ever really considered what trust is?

It's kind of the back-up plan.

Trust is that thing you have to find when you've run out of yourself, when you've gone as far as you can go, when you've come face-to-face with your own limitations.  Trust is that risk you have to take when you discover that you're not enough but the result is too much to give up on.  Trust is that thing that you cannot do yourself.

Think about it.  If I can do this whole thing by myself, then what do I need you for?  Nothing.  And if I don't need you, it doesn't matter whether or not I trust you.  I've got this.  On the other hand, when I run up against something bigger than my greatest strengths and abilities, I have to find someone or something I believe has the complement to my weaknesses and, sight unseen (because I have never seen you in this particular situation before), I have to hand part of this bigger thing over to you in trust.  Because such big things are not worth walking away from.

That's why all of the greatest trust exercises center around a deficit.  You're blindfolded; you have to rely on someone else for what you cannot see.  It's a hindrance to you that makes you depend on that trust.  You're falling; you can't catch yourself.  For something you cannot do, you have to trust someone else.  We build trust around our empty places.  

Which is why, I think, trust is so hard and so sobering.  It is inherently based upon our own weaknesses.  It is based on our limitations, our deficits, our shortcomings.  It comes from the places where we are compromised.  That means that when we risk to trust, we are both acknowledging our own vulnerabilities as well as putting our faith in something outside of our control.  It's running out and letting go all at the same time.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.  It's important, I think, to understand the place where you run out of yourself, where you've given all you've got and there's more to do, where there's something beyond you and you can't help but understand on a tangible level all of the things that you're not.  It's sobering, but it's also humbling.  It keeps a man from thinking too much of himself, this whole trust issue.

At the same time, in letting go you are actually affirming something in someone else.  As defeating and difficult as it is to admit that we can't do it, have you considered what it means to the one we trust to tell him that he can?  It shows him his strength.  It shows him his capabilities.  It energizes in him this passion for what he can do and ignites in him a fire for what God has created in him, this thing that you see in him that has made you trust him....this thing that maybe he cannot see in himself.

Trust is a beautiful thing, even in those terrifying moments when it doesn't feel like it.  Even in that last little step where you're trying to climb into the boat.  Even in that last gasp of air before you set sail and there's nothing left to tie you to land.  Trust reminds you where you stop and where something bigger begins.  Trust invites you into the affirmation of that something bigger, whether that is the strength of another man or the grace of God or whatever it is in that moment that answers your empty spaces.  And as in the cycle of all things, if you live an honest life and a life with integrity, trust comes back to you where maybe you least expect it and reminds you of your strengths when someone or Someone brings you into their something bigger.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Daddy Issues

Anyone who knows kind of the bits and pieces of my story could rightfully assume I'd come out of all this with daddy issues, and to a certain extent, I suppose that is true.  Though not in the ways you might think.  And the truth is that I don't tend to notice my daddy issues until and unless they become Father issues...then I'm all over them.

The kinds of stories I can tell, they might lead you think I'd have intimacy issues.  And I thought that those would be my primary concerns moving into a relationship with my heavenly Father.  I will admit it took many, many years to figure out how to be loved and even longer to let Him love me.  It's something we worked through, so I figured we were done.  Then apart from intimacy, separate somehow from love, I come across this other thing completely and realize I still have a few lingering daddy issues that I have to deal with because now they are Father issues.

The issue of the day is trust.

It's the kind of thing I sort of knew but never considered until that unexpected moment when I had to choose and realized that sinking feeling in my heart that was scared to decide.  Scared to go.  Scared to say.

Last week, I had the opportunity to go on my first boat ride.  My uncle Tim brought his decent-sized boat up from Alabama to take people out during our week in Tennessee and well, standing in Grandma's hallway one morning, I told him I was going out "because I've decided I'm not going to be a chicken my whole life."  Which is true.

At the same time, my heart was in my throat.  I grew up with two older brothers whose entire existence centered around torturing their little sister and figuring out how to make me scream.  I grew up with a dad whose idea of fun was to get me to scream louder.  This was a man who, when I was timid about getting into our new pool, picked me up and threw me over the side and left me to fend for myself while he stood laughing in the yard.  A man who, when I changed my mind about taking a wheelbarrow ride with him, ran faster down the driveway and tilted the barrow as far to the left and right as he thought he could get away with.  A man who, any time I said I was scared, did his best to make the boogeyman jump out of the bushes and increase my fear.

So I'm fairly sure uncle Tim got tired of hearing me say, "Don't scare me, now."  He kept saying he wouldn't, and as much as I wanted to believe him, I couldn't.  I just couldn't.  I'd said those words so many times and heard the same words in response only to be duped, only to be taken, only to be scared.

Nevertheless, I stepped onto the boat and swallowed the giant lump in my throat and sat down and closed my eyes while he untied us from the dock.

In that quiet moment, I realized I had the same hesitation in me then as I do when I pray.  I'd never noticed.  It had never occurred to me.  I'd never stopped to consider.  But there it was.  This hesitation.  This little girl trembling that asks but doesn't buy the answer.  This timidity that still thinks God is about to bring the boogeyman.  This lack of trust that my Father would never really hurt me.  This lack of trust that tells me He's pulling my leg somehow.  This preparation in my scream louder.  Like God would be out to get me.  Like God would stand there laughing at my fear, mocking my weakness.

Two seconds into the ride, I stood on that boat and laughed at my fear, mocked my weakness, and busted out some dance moves in the middle of the lake.  (Ok, not the middle middle but sort of like the middle edge.)  I turned to Tim and smiled and said, "Can I dance on your boat?"  He had the radio on and just kind of shrugged.

The thing is this: Tim wasn't out to scare me.  He wanted to show me something really cool - what being out on the water could be like.  What I learned was that and so much more.

I'm thinking about all the things in my life, all the really cool things, that God has wanted to show me.  I'm thinking about the things He delights in that He's wanted to share with me that I've missed out on because of this buried mistrust, this daddy issue that plain as day had become a Father issue when I wasn't looking.

It's still a big step - the dock to the boat, the fear to the trust - but I'm getting there.  There are some really cool moments out there, some awesome things God still wants to show me, still wants to do in me.  I just have to be willing to mock my own fears, step out in faith, trust Him, and dance.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Cross

As a follow-up to Friday's post about the shadow of a doubt, I had this piece working in my head about the shadow of the Cross.  About how the darkness cast over the Cross bridges the gap between forsaken and forgiven, between atrocious and atoned.  About how were it not for the Cross, there would be no way to get us from here to God.  Etc.

Then I really started thinking about the Cross.

As a Christian, I have to tell you that I am more often than not torn between the Cross and the Tomb.  We so often celebrate the Cross and only one day, a week if we're lucky, the Tomb.  From time to time, I've heard a preacher or writer here or there mention that without the Tomb, the Cross means nothing.  Never have I heard that without the Cross, the Tomb is meaningless.  It's always someone trying to emphasize the Tomb, victory over death and the promise of Eternal Life, who brings the two together - death and life.  And I'm always like Yes!  Of course we need the Tomb to make the whole thing work.  Of course the Tomb is the key here.

But is it?  It's here I think the whole thing is a circular mess.

The Cross was the climax.  That much is for sure.  The Cross was the most dramatic of the happenings, as it should have been.  It was while the Son of God hung on the Tree that the earth turned dark for hours in the middle of the day.  It was when He gave over His Spirit and surrendered Himself that the earth shook, the curtain tore, the rocks broke in two.  It was in that moment that the soldiers believed, the disciples mourned, and His mother cried.  The Cross was the show.

Do you remember what happened when He walked out of the grave?

Nothing.  The earth did not shake or tremble; the skies did not darken or dance.  Nothing marked His victory over death except stillness, silence, and an empty tomb.  Nobody even knew until someone went looking for Him on that third day.

Now, you tell me which was the more important event.

It's a trick question.  The answer is neither.  At the Cross, the curtain tore because there was no more separation between man and God.  God had restored the relationship that had gone rotten in an apple and had brought Himself back to His people - and His people back to Himself.  The earth trembled and shook as the full power of God came again to rest on His people, to be in this place with us, to build a new temple in our flesh.

That moment mattered.  That moment gave us the chance to touch Him, to love Him, to live with Him in a new way - not behind a curtain but with the Holy of Holies right inside of us.  The shadow of the Cross did indeed bridge the chasm that existed between us and brought us into this glorious, gracious place where we can now live in the very presence of the fullness of God.  Awesome.

At the Tomb, Christ defeated death.  This, we always say.  This, we know.  It was that one final act that allowed us to have life eternal, to be with God and in the very presence of the fullness of our Father forever. Not even death can stand in the way.  Not even the grave can keep us from Him.  We will have life and have it most abundantly, as Jesus promised.

But the Tomb was more, too.  The Tomb was the evidence of the prophecy.  The Tomb was the showing that this was the Man, this was the Messiah.  Had Jesus not walked out of that grave and fulfilled every written or spoken word about Him, had He not shown even this strength and power and authority, then we could forever question whether His sacrifice on the Cross was what it was.  Did He atone for our sins?  Or was He just another man dying?

He was not, He proved in an empty Tomb, just another man dying; He was a Messiah on a Cross.

It is the wholeness of both that gives us the full picture of Christ.  Neither more important than the other.  Each leading us back to its complement.  The Cross and the Tomb are the story of Christ.  They are our grace story.  They are our redemption story.  They are the story - together.

When we talk about the Cross or we talk about the Tomb, let us remember both.  What good is a life in the presence of God if it ends in the dust and the ashes?  Or what good is life eternal if a curtain still separates us from the Lord of All?  The answer is no good at all.

Together, however, the Cross and the Tomb - these are good.