Friday, April 1, 2011

Pondering's of People we Love

Mark and I made several car trips to Seattle this week that were, of course, during rush hour.  Strange conversations can come while you are sitting in traffic...

Pondering a situation with people we know and love dearly, we debated about if/how we could help. It is one of the truly difficult parts of being in relationships. On the one hand, we truly want to love and accept these people where they are, as they are, with no judgement or strings attached... On the other hand, we can see how easy it is to settle into old thought patterns or choices and not do the hard work they have told us they want to be about. Hmmmm. Risk saying something?  Watch as old self-destructive patterns play out?

Tough stuff really, isn't it? I think this may be one of the toughest conversations we have about community life.  When you choose to be involved in a community, you choose, sometimes by default, to have other people "in your business" so to speak.  And most everyone I know is carrying the scars of a relationship gone bad.  Jesus communities are famous for this.  Someone saying something they shouldn't have.  Judgement called down.  Painful wounds inflicted.  Scars carried forever.  Someone leaves, sometimes forever.

So we shy away from saying anything.  But is that the Jesus way?  I really don't know.  On the one hand, I believe God is big enough to do whatever work is necessary.  On the other hand, my life has been truly blessed (and transformation enhanced) by people I love, who took that very risk and spoke with love the hard stuff to me.  I can still name the people and the situations. They called me accountable to who I said I wanted to be, and held a mirror up to me.  I loved them, and while I was angry for a while, I knew they were telling me the truth and shining light on something I would rather pretend wasn't there.

But I too have had those other experiences. Where I feel judged, and not enough, and like the yardstick has been placed beside me to show me just how little I am and how far I fall short.

*SIGH and double sigh*

So I don't really have an answer here. I do know, as Jesus followers, we all are to "take on the mind, spirit and attitude of Christ"** and I know that old destructive patterns are not that attitude.  So how do we call each other to be all that we are created to be and leave the judgement in the trash outside?   How do we love people into kingdom life?  How do we heal old hurts and help each other move further and deeper into Christ?  How do we balance "being real" with living "transformed" lives?


**Philippians 2:5

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Already Slacking...

Well, we have weeks to go and I am already slacking on my Lenten promise. I have often given up things for lent, sugar, chocolate, etc... The normal type stuff. One year I decided that whenever I walked into a room I would sit in the most uncomfortable chair instead of comfortable ones. That was probably the easiest year because honestly, there just aren't that many really bad chairs out there... Well, this year, instead of giving something up I decided to add something. I added 1 hour a day of prayer/devotions/bible study on top of what I already was doing. It ends up usually to be about 40 minutes in the morning and 20 at night. Yesterday I did the full hour for the first time in 3 days. Yep - I'm a slacker and I feel bad about it. Why do I act like a yo yo with God? He is consistent yet I am so inconsistent in my devotion. The thing that really confuses me is that when I spend all that extra time with God I LOVE why do I have to force myself to do it? I have no idea!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Aside from giving up coffee and soda for Lent, I also gave up going to Starbucks. I love their tea, their smoothies, their lemon loaf... so I would have had many other reasons to go there aside from the "no coffee" rule.

I live in a town that has Starbucks in three different grocery stores. I was at one of those stores yesterday, and as I walked through the Bakery section, Starbucks was on the left and the smell hit me. Mmmmmmmm. I love the smell of coffee, especially the smell of Starbucks coffee. It immediately transports me back to seminary, because there was a Starbucks on every corner and it was a great place to study. You could usually find me at one of their locations on Thursday and Sunday nights, as well as Saturday mornings. (I lived in a house with 5 other girls so the house was not the best place to get some work done.)

Does anyone else feel their heart hurt when they long for something? I was exploring a Doctorate program at a seminary a few days ago and I got this ache. I feel it when I miss someone, or when I remember a tough time in my life, or I feel it when my heart breaks. It really just does feel like an ache... and painful sense of longing for something that I want to be different in my life. Sometimes it's something I can change, sometimes it's something I can't, sometimes it's something I need to work on, and when it comes to Lent, I recognizing it's something I want to WANT to change. I didn't feel that ache at Starbucks yesterday, but I didn't recognize my emotion as "longing" and it got me thinking.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
-Psalm 84:1-2

In desiring a grande soy carmel macchiato, I saw that my soul longs for the wrong things. So often, my soul longs for comfort (see my previous post). As I read through Psalm 84 today, I was struck by the last two verses:

For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you
! - v. 10-12

I think it's no coincidence that the last verse mentions trust in the Lord. It's given me much to pause on this day.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

one month to go!

I just looked at the calender and realized it is the 24th of March. Exactly one month until Easter. In some ways that seems long - but we know it will be here before we blink. Life has a way of doing that - flying by even when we think we have all the time in the world.

Twenty four is a nice number - it is even and two also divides nicely into four. I like nice even numbers. I don't know why - something within me feels peaceful when I see a nice number divisible by 2. Maybe because math was hard for me and 24 seems like a good number to work with. Much better than say 13 or something.

My life is like that - I like things to feel good and right. I like it when things are smooth and easy. But let's face it - that is seldom the case. If I have learned anything in my over 42 years on this planet it is that if things are great - just wait a minute. There WILL be a crisis. It is inevitable. I would like to think I am getting better at handling those... but sometimes I still find myself flat on my butt with the rug pulled out from under me.

So, one more month of Lent. Wonder where we will be? Wonder if we will have allowed God to do what He wants to in us by April 24th? I pray I listen and don't waste this month. I DO want to be more of who He wants me to be - but am I willing to let go of the easy and comfortable to get there? I pray for bravery to do so.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On Again, Off Again

I've got my skype on and one of my friends keeps coming online and then offline due to her connection and there is a box that shows up on my screen each time.

On Again, Off Again.

It reminds me of my life with God right now. Lent is only 2 weeks in and I've not read my devotions each morning.

On Again, Off Again.

Wait, let me run to the kitchen table and read my devotion. From two days ago.

On Again, Off Again.

Someone on the radio (I switch from country, to classic country, to classic rock to Christian, to public) was talking about how we have this wondeful gift in having God's word with us and we aren't even opening the book. I also just finished reading Brother Andrew's God's Smuggler.

On Again, Off Again.

Eating healthy.

On Again, Off Again.

Reading a good book instead of watching Big Bang Theory for the umpeenth time.

On Again, Off Again.

Talking bad about my job, my boss, my co-workers only to do nothing about it, even when I shouldn't have been talking smack in the first place, knowing it's out of God's desire.

On Again, Off Again.

Wondering if I am spending more time being OFF AGAIN than ON AGAIN.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Already... a lesson

So, my first 5 days of Lent started out wonderful.... with me being sicker than a dog.

I woke up Wednesday morning without a voice and by the afternoon I was so weak I could do little more than lay on the sofa and feel sorry for myself. I was scheduled to speak at a women's conference on Saturday, as well as lead worship at th e start of the day. So I did whatever I could not to talk in order to save my voice.

Saturday morning came and I made it through, though not sounding great at least I had some voice. But after leading worship for 30 minutes, then giving a 45 minutes workshop twice I promptly went home and crashed. When I woke up I was starving (as well as feeling a bit sorry for myself that I wasn’t at my peak that morning in front of over 100 local women). I heated up some leftovers and made a decision: to open and drink that Diet Dr. Pepper I had on the door in my fridge.

Let me back up:

I gave up coffee and soda for Lent this year. Soda is a common thing for me to give up - I drink far too much of it, it's expensive and it's bad for you anyway. This is the first time I've felt I needed to give up coffee. I'm not a "need a cup every day" kind of person. But I do find myself gravitating toward to more often than I have in the past, so I added it to the list.

So... back to Saturday. I opened that can of soda, heard that fizz of carbonation, and thought about Lent. Even before I open the can, as I was puttering around the kitchen making myself a plate of food, I kept thinking "Will I or won't I? Should I or shouldn't I? What does giving something up for Lent really mean, anyway? I'm not sure I really care that I stick to this anyway."

I took the first few bites of food and felt this almost sizzle-like feeling in my mouth. I wanted that soda. So I took a drink.

And it was disgusting.

I hadn't had soda since Tuesday, and my taste-buds had already adjusted. Each time I've given up soda for Lent in the past it's been hard to go back because it simply tastes so syrupy-sweet and decidedly saccharin. I had to ask myself why, when there was tea and water available to me, that soda was where I went for my "default"? And I can't really explain it... other than to say there is this satisfaction that happens in my brain when I take me first few drinks of any kind of carbonation.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know where I'm going with this.

Everyone, in one way or another, has a way they comfort themselves. For some it's taking to a certain friend. For some it's certain kinds of food or exercise. (I had a roommate in seminary who worked out 3 hours a day.) Some people like a good nap or watching a movie as a form of comfort... maybe it's reading a great book with a great cup of tea in your hand. I realized that soda had clearly become a form of that for me. I felt bad. I wanted to feel better. I think soda can do that for me. What was humbling (though not nearly humbling enough, for my great pride got in the way) for me was knowing that I have a much greater source of comfortable available to me. And this, my friends, is why we celebrate Lent. To discover our idols, knock them off their pedestals and put what rightly belongs on the pedestal in the first place: God.

The God of great comfort is waiting in the wings, wanting so badly to be the one I run to when I need comfort, satisfaction, and well, just to feel better. And I am choosing soda instead? What is wrong with me? It is in these kinds of revelatory moments that the devastation from the Fall brings me to my knees. I weep and mourn for the brokenness in my heart and in the world.

But as the season of Lent doesn’t last forever… neither did the Fall. Jesus is redeeming the world, our hearts, and his people. May I not only live in the light of that fact, but learn to live in the light of his willingness and love for comforting me when I need it the most.

O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

For you have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the foreigners’ palace is a city no more;
it will never be rebuilt.
Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
cities of ruthless nations will fear you.

For you have been a stronghold to the poor,
a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;
for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall

-Isaiah 25: 1-4

Friday, March 11, 2011

From Revised Common Lectionary Prayers p. 77

Righteous God,
in humility and repentance
we bring our failures in caring, helping, and loving
we bring the pain we have caused others,
we bring the injustice in society of which we are a part,
to the transforming powerof your grace.
Grant us the courage to accept the healing you offer
and turn again toward the sunrise of your reign,
that we may walk with you in the promise of your peace
you have willled for all the children of the earth,
and have made known to us in Christ Jesus. Amen

Thursday, March 10, 2011

from Nouwen

A friend gave me a Lenten devotional from the lectures of Henri JM Nouwen. I was standing in my kitchen this morning, drinking my tea and reading today's message. I was really struck by this morning's message and thought that even though it is not my own that I would share it with you to see your response.

From Fear to Love
Lenten Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son

Every Child is Blessed
I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard form my Father. John 15:15

We are all blessed in our very creation, and this blessing never leaves us. Our challenge is to claim our "original blessing" as children of the One who gave it to us. We may have been wounded by what is known as original sin, but we are healed by our original blessing. The original blessing, the unconditional love of God, was present in God's mind and heart long before our conception. It touches us from before our beginnings until after our deaths. It embraces us forever. Each of us is "a blessed one." That is our primary identity.

Every time we take bread, bless it, break it, and give it, we summarize the whole movement of Divine Love. Jesus also takes (chooses) us, blesses us, breaks us with all our undeserved suffering, and gives us for others. Before we are broken we are blessed. We are not broken because of fault but because we are blessed sons and daughters, like Jesus. Our brokenness allows us to be given in solidarity with all others in the world, just as bread is broken and given to many. We constantly see Jesus doing this: he takes, he blesses, he breaks and he gives. That's what he does. Let us not forget that. Like Jesus, we also are taken, blest, broken and given, because, like Jesus, we are beloved sons and daughters from our very beginning.

The italics are mine and that's the line that really speaks to my heart. We are one. One body in Christ. When one suffers we all suffer. Really? Am I suffering with my brothers and sisters around the world? In my own neighborhood? Do I even know enough about them to suffer with them? I pray that the Lord will continue to open my eyes to see the suffering of the world that I may not only suffer with others but be motivated to action from that suffering. Action dictated by God, not me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


PCD - International Pancake Day, Liberal KS

Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday or day before Ash Wednesday or Pancake Day


I am a die-hard International Pancake Day celebrator. Couple of questions are coming to your mind, I'm sure.

1. What the heck is she talking about?
2. Why?

1. International Pancake Day - celebrated on Shrove Tuesday each year in partnership with the sister city of Olney, England. It is the celebration that leads into Lent.

Pancake Day began when, in Olney, a woman was busy cooking flapjacks to use up her excess fat prior to Lent. Generally, during Lent, people would forego luxuries such as fat and meat. The idea is to sacrifice something we treasure to have even a small idea of what our Lord experienced during this season when he lived his last days prior to his crucifixion. Anyway, as this woman cooked her pancakes, wearing traditional housekeeping garb - apron and head scarf - she heard the church bells ring, calling everyone to worship. The bells caught her so off guard that she just began to run to the church, still in her house-garb and carrying her skillet and pancake. Thus began the initial Pancake Day Race. Liberal joined in on the partnership 62 years ago. You can read more about the festivities at

2. Why do I steadfastly celebrate? I love small towns and their festivals. I think, like Lent, they bring people together. They bring new people into the community, they celebrate family, love and history. Lent is the opportunity for us to remember our history and bring us back to our Lord, to see that we cannot deserve all that He is done for us but that He loves us so much that we only crave to be near and learn more.

I have celebrated PCD, literally, around the world. I have shared the joys and stories of PCD with friends who celebrate around the world. One year, I celebrated with friends in Kenya and the year before that in Tanzania. I have friends who are celebrating in Asia and all over North America. Facebook is flooded with pictures and games and hilarious stories. Folks want to know why I celebrate and what the heck I'm celebrating. Then, if the door is open, I tell them not only of pancakes, but of sacrifice. Mine and why I do it, which ultimately leads to the conversation of Christ's sacrifice and the entire purpose of the celebration.

You'll hear about what I give up, what I take on, where I struggle, what I learn, what I don't understand. I hope you'll join the journey, celebration, questions and conversations.

Most importantly, I pray that you will come to a point where you refuse to ever NOT celebrate Lent again.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy to be Here!

Wow - I am just happy to be here! Last year I never could figure out how to actually write anything - see how much I have learned in a year! LOL!

Lent is one of my favorite times of year - actually it is my 2nd favorite right behind Christmas. I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church and didn't even know what Lent was until I became an Episcopalian. I can still remember my first Lenten season, well, the first one I observed. It was 1995 in Odessa, Tx. I don't remember a whole lot up until Holy Week - the week prior and including the first Easter Sunday. As we participated in the events leading up to Easter morning - I can remember an actual anticipation - It felt very much like I was on the journey with Christ heading to the cross. It was the most glorious Easter Sunday I had ever experienced. For the first time for me, it had little to do with the new dresses or the gloves and hats. It was truly about the resurrection of My Lord!!!

I have done many things to observe Lent - I did actually give up chocolate one year - it was rough and I cheated more than once! For me it is about discipline. It is giving up something very special to me - or adding something that is a sacrifice. I want to go on a journey with God. I want to have to lean on Him in order to make it through. I want to feel Him close and grow closer to Him.

A friend posted this morning on Facebook that when her son was little he told her he wasn't giving up anything for Lent. Being Catholic, she was shocked at first, especially when he said, "Instead of giving up something I am gonna play more with Johnny." Thank God she was too shocked to say anything because his next words were, "No one really ever plays with Johnny, so I think that is what God would want me to do."

This is what Lent is to me - a time to find out more of what God wants me to do and to stop doing - and implement them into my world. If I can do it for 40 days - maybe, just maybe, some of the good with stick with me and continue on after Easter. I sure hope so.

Year 2

Last year I recruited a few friends to join me in a blog to share about our Lenten journey and support one another along the way. This year I am hoping to do the same, and to add a few friends as I go.

Do you want to share about your experience w/ Lent?

Do you want to try carrying out the practice of Lent for the first time and write about it as you go?

Do you want accountability in your Lenten journey?

Do you want somewhere to think outloud about what it means to follow Jesus to the cross?

Let me know. We can include you in our writers. And if you just want to follow along, bookmark or RSS the blog for the next couple months.

Look forward to hearing from you.