Wednesday, December 31, 2008

turned upside down

"Clearly, the very foundations of traditional religion have been shaken. Traitors, swindlers, and adulterers enter the Kingdom before the religiously respectable. The depraved prodigal is loved as much as his hardworking brother, who never frolicked in the fleshpots. The heretical Samaritan is presented as a model to the Levitical priesthood. And at the end they all get the same reward. Righteousness seems to be turned upside down." - Brennan, The Wisdom of Tenderness

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

parameters of compassion

"As Christians living in the Spirit, we're called to pass on the tenderness of God. The parameters of our compassion extend beyond those who opt for our lifestyle, favor our existence, or make us feel good. Charges of elitism are dropped for the lack of evidence. Peace and reconciliation for all, without exception--even for moral failures--is the radical lifestyle of Christians living in the wisdom of accepted tenderness." - Brennan Manning, The Wisdom of Tenderness

another sneeze

"Daddy's got the bless-you's!" - my super-cute niece

2008 lessons learned and books to write

13. I Can't Control My Circumstances, So I Might As Well Quit Trying
12. Betrayal Is Not Limited To Jesus
11. Sometimes God Heals In Seconds. Sometimes God Heals In Years.
10. Like Daddy Says, "You Don't Always Get What You Want"
9. Most Addresses Are Temporary (At Least For Me)
8. Huh. I Really Am Content
7. People Are Of Greater Value Than Perfection
6. Blessings May Masquerade Themselves...For A While
5. Simply Put: "Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy"
4. "I Don't Know" Is A Perfectly Legitimate Reason For Crying
3. Don't Trust The First Person To Show Up On Your Doorstep
2. God Knew Starting Life As A Child Was A Really Good Idea
1. Trust In God And Enjoy The Mystery

Monday, December 29, 2008

a few words to think about

"We are all indispensable, but we are not irreplaceable." (from a funeral message)


This year I was introduced to a new kind of Christmas service called a Christingle Service. Christingle means "Christ Light" and the service is a celebration of Christ coming to be a light to the world. The church I am a part of has done several of these services and has used the article in Reformed Worship as a guideline for the service. For us, the service began in the fellowship hall. It was here that we made our Christingles beginning with an orange and ending with the fruit, nuts and candy on the toothpicks. Each part of the christingle is symbolic. I think what I enjoyed the most about the service is that with the symbol, the ideas stick with you. It's also a great opportunity for children and teens to get involved. We distributed the parts to members of the youth group and had them help everyone make their Christingles as the service began. Though it is probably best saved as a Christmas Eve service, we found it helpful in preparing ourselves for the coming Christ a few weeks before Christmas. Whenever you do it, it is a great opportunity to share the story of Christ - that old familiar favorite - with a bit of a different twist. And, it gives you something to take home to remember the event as well!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

the power of silence

I'm a new fan of Mark Driscoll. Here are a couple of thoughts from his blog. His questions made me think about my own life that is full of noise...

"I remembered the words of missionary martyr Jim Elliot, who said, 'I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds . . . Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.'

"I began to ponder what Jesus’ life might be like if He lived today. Would He be available to all of His followers twenty-four hours a day on His BlackBerry? Would He have left His phone on at the Last Supper and been continually interrupted by needless calls? Would He have failed to stop and speak to needy people because their weeping was not loud enough for Him to hear over His iPod as He hurried past them on His way to a meeting He was already late for?

"In that moment I prayed, asking God for His wisdom and help to save me from myself."

guarding the meaning

The way we speak about things reveals the heart behind the subject matter. There are a few words that make me shutter when people use them in reference to worship. Depending on the person and the situation, I may or may not correct someone. For instance, if someone refers to the musical part of a corporate worship service as the "worship" it may reveal that they don't find the preaching or reading of Scripture as worship. However, when someone turns over their life to Christ, their entire life becomes worship. So, worship is not limited to the singing part of a Sunday morning service, but includes most (I wish I could say all) of life. A definition of worship that I have come to use as my own is from Dr. Parrett at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. One of the ways he defines worship is "Bowing all that we are before all that He is." It's a life thing, not a singing thing. In his article "Defining Missional" in the Fall 2008 issue of Leadership, Alan Hirsch says:

"There are consequences when the meanings of words become confused. This is particularly true within a biblical worldview. The Hebrews were suspicious of images as conveyors of truth, so they guarded words and their meanings carefully. Part of theology, therefore, includes guarding the meaning of words to maintain truth within the community of faith."

I couldn't agree more

just so you know....
You are invited to share your thoughts, ideas, prayers, etc. on the sunday symposium posts...
"symposium - 1. A drinking together; a merry feast. -T. Warton. 2. A collection of short essays by different authors on a common topic; so called from the appellation given to the philosophical dialogue by the Greeks."
symposium. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. (accessed: December 14, 2008)

from proclamation to demonstration

"We have emphasized that you pray a prayer and you're saved, to our detriment. Matthew 7 haunts me. To many the Lord will say, 'I don't know you.' I want people to know the gospel fully, that the reality of what happens at the point of conversion is the beginning of a process in which we experience the fruit of Christ in us." - David Platt, "Missional Shift or Drift?" Leadership, Fall 2008

me too.

Friday, December 26, 2008

favorite thing number fourteen

being with my family. laughing until we cry.

in the words of charlie brown

"Why's everybody always pickin' on me?"

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


i guess i just always thought this would be more mystical...

seven stanzas...oops!

a kind woman said to me, "I didn't even know there were 7 verses to O Come O Come Emmanuel!"

i just realized

i don't get crabby on tuesdays anymore!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

too soon

"we know we are in the autumn of my life" - Sue

Monday, December 22, 2008

seminary living

thump, thump, thump, thump, thump. "Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!" -in the words of Perrin

a little advice

"Or it could be more subtle like 'pass the beer nuts.'" - Matt

Friday, December 19, 2008

phone call

And there are smiles all around!!

what's with this bad news in the middle of an obedient journey...

This year has brought with it several "different dreams," and I have wondered if I didn't hear God correctly the first time. However, as I have learned to rest in the Lord, I have also begun to understand that He only gives me enough information to take the next step. So, I needn't feel frustrated and concerned when things don't go the way I expected them to...our Great and Holy God knew the circumstances would happen as they have. A professor in college used to say, "God is still in His throne" which has brought tremendous comfort time and time again. In this morning's advent devotional from the church I was a part of during college, Grete Carlson sheds an interesting light on our journeys of obedience.

“Up!” That’s how our text begins in The Message. “Get up,” in the NIV. Joseph started off immediately, it seems. He was told by the angel to go to Israel and once he arrived, he headed toward home, toward Judea, a destination we too would assume was God’s plan.

But while he was on his way, he got the local news from the local press about the latest evil ruler. What went wrong? Did he misunderstand? Hadn’t the angel said it was safe to return? So what’s with this bad news in the middle of an obedient journey? What he learned from the local press made one thing clear: Joseph’s logical assumption… that being sent “back to Israel” meant going back to Judea…was wrong. What should he do? He was afraid....

But now what? God sent His angel: “Warned by God in a dream...” (NASB) or “directed in a dream…” (Message) or “In a new dream” in a Norwegian Living Bible I access online. I’m grateful for this reminder of what is, perhaps, obvious. This was, indeed, a new dream. The first dream led him back to Israel, and then God gave him a new dream for this new day, for this new fear, for this new situation. God could redirect them because Joseph and his family were already on the move, a move of obedience based of the revelation of an earlier day. The text explains that God’s purposes were fulfilled in the process. Like Joseph, we do not always see those purposes.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

that place

ironic. i feel like that is two parts of me in one place i have never heard of.

laundry mat

"You were in a dream I had
Doing dishes at the laundry mat"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

oh my word

What is wrong with my brain lately?

Monday, December 15, 2008


doesn't look like what i expected.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

pretty words

Sometimes there aren’t any pretty words to use to describe our lives. Our days are filled with heartache and pain. The lives we once dreamed of have never come to be. Every expectation we have had has gone unmet. Troubling times rob us of the joy that is offered. And, death and disease deflate our desire to live.

A little over two years ago, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. That was at the beginning of November. It seemed every time she met with a doctor, the prognosis was a little worse. Just before Thanksgiving she had surgery which revealed that the cancer had metastasized. And, when I was finally able to fly home at Christmas, she had already started chemo. The news of my mother’s cancer came just following a couple of devastating rejections in my life. So, when I stepped off the plane to find a tired and weak mother, she stepped up to find a tired and weak daughter.

I remember a couple significant conversations from those ten days that I spent with my parents. During one of them, my mother was commenting on my downcast spirit and said, “honey, life is too short.” There is something about my mother’s cancer that made her words credible and that kept the phrase ringing in my mind. I remember watching my mother with awe as hope seemed to drip from her. Rather than this dreadful disease stealing her life – as it had mine – it was as if she had been given a new one. During another conversation she told me that when she had been diagnosed with cancer, she and Dad were very depressed. Then one day, my father said to my mother, “you feel good today; let’s not waste it.” And, I began to understand that hope is not rooted in circumstances, but instead is rooted in the Lord. As my mother sought after the Lord, so He sought after her. And, in the midst of this, she realized that it is perhaps in hopeless times that we as followers of Christ have the most hope.

As we look at Isaiah 7, it is notable that a king named Ahaz is cowering because he believes that two kings from other lands will demolish his kingdom. But, instead, the Lord speaks through His servant Isaiah to say “No! A child will be born to a virgin. And, we will call Him Immanuel. And, before He is full grown these two nations that you fear will be destroyed.” In the midst of a hopeless situation, the Lord breathes in tremendous hope. Isaiah reminds King Ahaz that hope is not found in his valiant army or any other circumstance, but instead that hope is rooted in the Lord.

No, sometimes there are no pretty words to describe our lives. Our days are filled with heartache and pain. The lives we once dreamed of have never come to be. Every expectation we have had has gone unmet. But, these troubling times need not rob us of the joy that is offered. Death and disease need not deflate our desire to live. Because our hope is not rooted in our circumstances, but instead, rooted in the Lord. And, this Lord that we call Immanuel has promised that we will be healed, that we need not fear the enemy, and that we will know peace. And so, we hope with expectant hearts upon the Lord who has given us a sign.

just so you know....
You are invited to share your thoughts, ideas,
prayers, etc. on the comment card posts...

Saturday, December 13, 2008


"Sitting on intelligence is a waste." - Marya Hornbacher in Mpls StPaul

Thursday, December 11, 2008

a healing balm

Little white lights adorn the Christmas tree. The fire crackles from the fireplace. From another room, I hear the echoes of a father reading Scripture to his son. And, just behind me is the quiet breathing of an infant.

During seminary, I decided I didn't want to have children. I was selfishly consumed with my call to ministry and, honestly, didn't want to have to care for anyone else. A good friend of mine was a nanny during our time in seminary, and I remember being amazed that day after day she could care for someone else's kids.

The Lord does indeed have a sense of humor. As I was entering into a new phase of life with transitions and change coming at me from every direction, a wonderful couple - Chris and Sarah - and their five children fell into my life. The Lord knew that I needed lots of hugs and tackles. He knew that I needed to be richly and freely loved. He knew that I needed the healing balm which comes from five beautiful boys.

So, following an evening of corndogs, crying and caretaking, after lots of hugs and some storytelling, with toys strewn about the floor, clean dishes in the dishwasher and five little ones in bed, I praise God that in His creative wisdom He has crafted His children to begin as precious little ones. To begin as innocent yet naughty, wise yet foolish, untainted yet fallen children who love with abandon. And, I praise Him that I am privileged enough to receive just a little of that love from these five energetic little boys who I have come to absolutely adore.

on loving the hurting...

In response to the request of Wynia on the previous post, here are a few things I learned from my mother's fight with cancer:

It's no secret that loving someone who is going through a difficult time can be difficult in and of itself. People are all different, so such a book would be really difficult to write. However, a few of the jewels that I have held onto are:

1. People often have a lot to say about whatever it is they are going through. How they feel about it. How it has effected every corner of their life. How difficult it can be to just stay afloat with things like bills, cleaning, and eating. So, number one, listen. Do not fix. Give them space to speak, and give them a safe sounding board.

2. Let the story be about them. So often I wanted to say, "look, I know you are trying to help, but your story is not my story, and you don't really know what I am going through. You aren't me." I also didn't want to hear another story about somebody's friend's mother that also had breast cancer. And this was true especially when the somebody's friend's mother died. These stories were often what brought back the anxiety and hurt that I had finally managed to cast off for the day.

3. Hug much. Especially for those who are far away from the action. When I was aching for my family in the Midwest and living in Massachusetts the thing that ministered to me the most was the plethora of hugs that found me. Sometimes a little safe and healthy touch communicates more than any words could say.

4. Use Scripture sparingly. I knew that God was in control. That doesn't mean that I wasn't angry at God somedays. And, that didn't mean that there weren't days that I didn't trust Him. Let the person work those hurts out with God. Listen. But, let them experience the emotion that goes with what they are going through. After all, emotions aren't bad; it's all in what we do with them. I love the Word of God. But pulling one verse out of the whole to try and make someone feel better - in my experience - doesn't work. I wish it did. I would experience a lot less pain in my life.

5. When you offer to help, offer something tangible. I remember many people saying "Let me know if I can do anything." I say that, too. It's not always easy to know what to offer, but it's a whole lot easier to take someone up on something specific than a broad "anything." My favorite example is when someone delivered a pizza to my parent's house. This was before chemo when my mother was just tired. So, being relieved of making dinner was a great help to my parents. Another great offer is to suggest cleaning for someone. Or, get their groceries, or take them to the doctor. This is especially helpful for people who are enduring radiation every day or who get really sick from chemo and can't drive, but don't limit it to someone who can't drive...sometimes it's just nice to have someone to do yucky things with...they don't seem quite as yucky. Some of these simple everyday things are what you don't have energy for when you are fighting a disease or are hurting for someone else who is fighting the disease.

6. Encouraging notes can be the balm someone needs for that day. I have saved a few of the precious notes I received during my mother's cancer. Some of them were sincere, deeply moving prayers to the Father on our behalf. Some of them were little reminders of what people value in me...just so I wouldn't forget. Some of them were expressions of deep love for me and/or my mother.

7. Do pray. It seems trite. But, that is how we unleash the healing power of the Holy Spirit. And, don't just pray when you leave their side. Pray in their presence. Stop. Take their hands and plead on their behalf. Now, I don't want to get into the theology of prayer right here, but after those hard months a couple years ago, I am so sure it works. There were days that I am pretty sure others' prayers are what kept me from completely falling apart.

If you have experienced deep hurt from disease, please feel free to leave other thoughts on this post. The ones I listed are what I have found to be true... I'd love to read some thoughts from a different perspective.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

the star on her lapel

When my mother was going through her struggle with cancer, I remember us talking frequently about the things people would say. We decided we should write a book outlining the appropriate and inappropriate ways to communicate with someone who is fighting this disease or with someone who loves someone who is fighting this disease. I was reminded of a few of those things today.

Usually I am a big proponent of storytelling. However, there are times when the only story you care about is the one you find yourself immersed in. And, someone's story of so-and-so's cancer that ended negatively, really doesn't help you feel any better about the story you are in the middle of. When you are the one battling against this disease (and I would venture to say other diseases, but I have no experience with that), I think you should get to wear a little star that gives you permission to be the only storyteller in the group.

My mother went to the doctor today for a checkup. And, praise the Lord, we don't have to put that little star back on her lapel. But, in the midst of our rejoicing with good news, I care deeply about someone who unfortunately is wearing the star right now. And, I ache with her. And, hopefully, the Lord will give me the grace to be silent for her. Because, though I know everyone experiences pain and receives love in different ways, I'm pretty sure quiet mouths, gentle hugs, and lots of prayers are what help when the star is pinned to someone's lapel.

when your heart shakes like the trees of the forest shake before the wind

"Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart grow faint..." - the Prophet Isaiah

Monday, December 8, 2008

seasonal irony

i'm struck by the marketing this season... i've seen many advertisements colored by the unstable economic situation we find ourselves in. these advertisements seem to be saying, "buy more! even though you don't have much money right now, our crap is cheap! so, just buy more stuff you don't need and you will forget you can't afford it and you will feel better!"

the lies we both believe and tell ourselves are sickening.


life is not without its whys.

and now for something completely different...

He bought a violin, and I'm building a treehouse.

changing landscapes

The following is an advent devotional written by a professor friend of mine at Northwestern College, Jackie Smallbones. I am intrigued with her ideas on repentance and changing landscapes:

"It is our job, as followers of Jesus Christ, to prepare the way for Jesus so that the world may know and believe. But, who am I, I often wonder, to prepare the way for Jesus, the King of all creation? There are so many better prepared, better known and better placed people to do the job. Rather like in John the Baptizer’s day. Many others were more qualified than John, as Luke points out in this text. He lists them by name – all the political and religious leaders of Jewish society. These were the important people. Any one of them would seem a likely candidate to introduce the long-awaited Messiah-King to the nation and the world. Instead, Luke ignores them all and introduces John, an unknown nobody, the son of Zechariah, another nobody, a stark contrast to the named hot shots.

"I can’t use the excuse of being unqualified or inexperienced. I look to the competent leaders around me to do the work. God uses unlikely people to prepare the way for the Savior of the world. John, a nobody, stepped up to the plate, preached a demanding message in the region around the Jordan River. And the people flocked to him. They accepted his message of repentance and submitted to his baptism, despite its costly demands. John called for a repentance that would radically change the ‘landscape’ of their lives – paths straightened, valleys filled in, mountains demolished, rough ways made smooth. This is not a message designed to make us feel good about ourselves and our way of life. It demands repentance that will radically change the way we think, the way we live, the way we relate to those around us. We may find ourselves changing our views, perhaps even our politics; accepting people regardless of their status (legal or illegal); engaging in activities we once thought beyond our abilities or interests. Our ‘landscape’ will change, becoming new and unfamiliar to us.

"John, not one of the political or religious hot shots was called to proclaim this demanding preparation for God’s Messiah. You and I, ordinary people, untrained preachers, are called this advent season, to examine our lives and then begin preparation for Messiah by taking this sacrificial road of repentance that changes the place where we live."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

little reminders

I took another sip of coffee relishing the moment. It was about nine in the morning, and I sat there on the living room floor in my purple fleece pajamas. Brianna sat next to me in her blue flannel pajamas with her cup of hot apple cider. In college and seminary, finding us with pjs and a warm beverage was not uncommon. However, since moving back to the Midwest these moments were a rare privilege. We sat there reflecting on the past ten years. Long had it been a dream of Brianna and her husband Nathan to serve overseas. And, after completing their degrees at Northwestern College and then Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, they had moved to a small town in southern Iowa. It was here that they practiced the theories and philosophies they had gained in their classes. We laughed thinking about all that had changed: our clothing styles, our vocabulary, our favorite authors. We praised God as we thought of all that had grown: our character, our understanding of Scripture, my call to the American church, and her dream of serving the Khmer people. She began telling me a story of an older woman. Her name was Helen. Recently, Helen walked up to Brianna and told her that she had had a dream about this young couple and felt confident that the Lord was asking her to support their work in Cambodia. We grew quiet for a moment as we both realized this was a little reminder of God’s having already paved the way for them.

During the past year, Nathan and Brianna had been accepted by OMF International. And, they were now preparing for the next step in their journey. Finally, their desire to serve overseas was almost tangible. And, with expectant hope, they waited on the Lord. They waited for Him to bring in the support they needed. They waited for opportunities to speak in different congregations and for more hits on their website. Some days the monotony of waiting was almost overwhelming. They continued to be certain the Lord was calling them to Cambodia, but some days it has seemed like an impossible task to actually live their way into the dream. And, it’s days like these, when morale is low, hearts are heavy, and a sense of hopelessness is in the air that the Lord gives them a little reminder. A little reminder so that we don’t forget that the Lord is moving. He is the one readying Nathan and Brianna as well as the Khmer people. He is the one raising their support. He is the one who is removing the obstacles from their path. And, He is the one who pours expectant hope into our hearts. And while we wait, we watch as God moves.

About 2500 years ago, the voice of the Lord was silent. He promised that a redeemer was coming, but as the Israelites waited, their morale grew low, their hearts grew heavy, and a sense of hopelessness was in the air. 400 years went by, and they were still waiting in the silence. A man named Simeon would not lose hope, however. Day after day he waited with expectation for the redeemer who was yet to come. And, one day, in the midst of a crowd at the temple, the Lord sent him a little reminder that He was indeed moving. A little reminder in the form of an infant.

As people of God, He has given us little reminders, too. Little reminders that we rehearse again and again in Advent. Little reminders that tell us He is indeed readying all of us for the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, some days the monotony of waiting is almost overwhelming. And, some days it seems like an impossible task to actually live our way into the dream. So when morale is low, our hearts are heavy, and a sense of hopelessness is in the air, may we not forget that the Lord is indeed moving. He is bringing good news to the poor, binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming freedom for the captives, and releasing prisoners from darkness. He is comforting all who mourn, and providing for those who grieve. And these little reminders are what give us a tremendous sense of hope as we, too, wait for the coming of the Lord.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

favorite thing number thirteen

a hot cup of homemade hot chocolate, a cinnamon Christmas cookie, a fire, and a good book

Friday, December 5, 2008

little red dots

We were talking about dogs and cats. Laughing at the different things they do. I commented on having made cats run in circles with a laser pointer, and Becca laughed and began to tell me about the way her parents dogs would follow the little red dot, too. She said sometimes you have to let the dogs think they have caught whatever it is they are chasing, so you let them tackle the dot and then turn off the laser.

And, I wonder if sometimes God does the same thing. If sometimes we are so intent upon the little red dot and so distracted by it that God watches us chase nothing and then lets us think we caught it. But, really we have captured nothing. And, soon enough we get bored with our nothing and start searching for that darn red dot again. And all the while, His heart breaks for those of us who keep chasing after nothing.

this crazy journey

"At each step of the crazy journey God has had us on, we have made mistakes that should have killed us. But God has continually saved us from ourselves and, like the perfect Father that he is, has taught us important lessons." - Mark Driscoll

Thursday, December 4, 2008

good news

"When the healing tenderness [of Jesus] lays hold of our hearts, the false self, ever vigilant in protecting itself against pain and seeking only approval and admiration, dissolves in the tender presence of mystery." - more Brennan Manning, The Wisdom of Tenderness

bollixed is a good word

"Jesus knows that we will experience fatigue along the Way and get bollixed, beat up, and burned out by church, relationships, parenting, ministry, career, appetites, addictions, and our recurring neuroses." - good ol' Brennan Manning

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

humor helps

"So, how's your kazoo playing?" - Griff

simplicity has its perks

It's much easier to decide what to wear when all but two of your sweaters are in storage.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

the retreat house revisited

"i think there's a difference between interest & suffocation; i want to be pursued...just not stalked" - a member of swic